JOHANNESBURG is facing a massive urban explosion as people from all over flock to a city known in the past to offer golden opportunities. By 2030 the city’s population is set to reach 11.5-million.
The Oxford Economics Global Cities 2030 study showed this could have serious consequences for our city’s citizens, and our already overstretched resources and infrastructure. If not managed properly with the right planning, rapid urbanisation will overwhelm the city’s ability to provide a quality standard of living.
The future of the South African economy lies in our cities, so we must take their future seriously. In India — a good peer comparison —— McKinsey research estimated that cities could generate 70% of net new jobs created by 2030, produce about 70% of India’s gross domestic product (GDP), and drive a near fourfold increase in per capita incomes across the nation.
This reinforces my belief that Johannesburg needs new leadership and a fresh vision based on economic inclusion. A compelling vision is always greater than the sum of its proposals. As Johannesburg contributes almost 17% to the country’s GDP, it is clear the national story cannot be rewritten if Johannesburg is not turned around.
We live in a supremely interconnected and interdependent global economy, but one that is highly competitive for investment. Johannesburg is facing stiff competition from Nairobi and Lagos in particular as these cities experience grand surges of growth. The effect of a resurgent Johannesburg under the Democratic Alliance (DA) would be multiplied through that powerful and slightly mystical force called “confidence”. Johannesburg cannot be turned around if we do not restore the confidence of its citizens and future investors.
That’s why I’ve entered politics as the DA’s change candidate who wants to turn Johannesburg around. I’ve felt the loss of hope in Johannesburg at the African National Congress (ANC) administration’s mismanagement, corruption and lack of direction. ANC mayor Parks Tau seems to view his job as managing the city’s decline. He suffers political interference from the provincial body. Decisions are taken in silos without strong policy direction.
Visionary mayors can make improvements to their cities with the recognition of excellent ideas and the will to put aside politics to advance them to fruition — from London’s Boris Johnson to Buenos Aries’s Mauricio Macri, Bogata’s Enrique Peñalosa and Patricia de Lille in Cape Town.
First, we need to get the basics right. The biggest issue that concerns the people of Johannesburg is jobs. Small, black-owned businesses face formidable obstacles breaking into the mainstream economy through restrictive government red tape, patronage networks and lack of access to property, capital and internet connectivity.
We will do everything in our power to remove that red tape. In fact, in my first 100 days I will tear up the by-laws that restrict small businesses growth. We need a working broadband network across the city that will increase our global competitiveness and empower disadvantaged residents to access technological opportunities — just like Cape Town is doing under the DA.
Soweto and Alexandra should boast centres of commerce and innovation to rival Sandton and Rosebank. These suburbs should see their residents working in them and contributing to their own micro-economy, rather than spending up to half of their income on transport.
Unfolding from this push to reverse the ebb and flow of apartheid spatial planning is the need to address the city’s housing crisis. Again, this offers an opportunity if managed properly. A home is more than owning four walls and a roof. It’s about investing in savings and planting roots in a community.
If elected, we will work unceasingly to bolster home ownership, and we will ensure that the poorest are helped first. The DA city will assist home ownership through effective asset management, better maintained rental stock, and title deeds without delay.
Education and proper training is the key to a successful future. One of my first policy innovations will be for the city to establish early-learning daycare centres in every township, where children will receive a meal and basic preschool education. That way, working mothers and fathers will know their children are taken care of while they are connected with opportunities.
I am looking at a city programme to pay unemployed citizens to help clean up our streets, fix basic infrastructure and make this a city we can all be proud of through the city’s Safe Streets and the Jozi Beautiful programmes. These jobs must not just be a temporary programme to improve numbers, but must be a long-term employment solution with proper skills transfers.
An integral component of every smart city strategy is reversing inner-city decay. Johannesburg has beautiful and iconic buildings that are derelict. I want to see them revived like Pittsburgh has famously done since the 1980s, making the city one of the most liveable in the world.
A DA-led task team has already convened with urban experts and developers to craft a strategy to revive downtown Joburg as a commercial hub, with mixed housing for all incomes, green public spaces, safe streets, fun playgrounds, urban food gardens and a lively arts scene. We will offer investment incentives for private developers providing mixed housing options as we unwind apartheid’s spatial planning.
Above all, we will ensure our administration will be run with business-like efficiency — citizens and investors alike will know that we are open for business and will work hard to create a strong enabling environment for economic growth.
Global cities, like countries, thrive on “soft power”; the power to attract. Studies show that investment, trade flows and commerce thrive in safe environments, where the law is supreme and applied impartially. Crime must be thwarted at every turn, and the combined forces of the Johannesburg metropolitan police department (JMPD), Safe Street officials and private security firms will see this happen. The CCTV network will be put to proper use, with greater co-ordination with the private sector’s network of cameras to ensure that we all take responsibility for crime prevention.
Corruption will be rooted out in the metro police through a new integrity and internal investigations unit within the JMPD. The unit will serve as a fast-track internal disciplinary system and pursue criminal charges against corrupt officers through the criminal justice system. The unit would be directly accountable to the mayor and the Section 79 committees — public safety and transport — in the metro council in open sittings. In this way, the public can hold the JMPD directly to account for corruption.
The future of Johannesburg is at a turning point, and only with a DA administration will the city turn for the better, and truly become a global city to rival all others.
• Mashaba is a businessman and DA candidate for mayor of Johannesburg