Tshwane on a silver platter?
The one thing that the DA’s Tshwane mayoral candidate does not leave his house without these days is a gold nametag that says Executive Mayor – Solly Msimanga.
“These days, I speak as the mayor of Tshwane and that’s what I feel like, even when I walk and do everything. This nametag stays in my chest pocket and it motivates me to think it will happen. The DA will win and I am the next mayor of this wonderful city,” he says.
As fate would have it, something happened this week that boosted his confidence about the prospects of winning the mayoral race. The ANC was plunged into disarray when its members in the townships took to the streets of Tshwane in protest against their own party’s decision to deploy former public works minister Thoko Didiza as its mayoral candidate.
They would rather have the governing party decide between the incumbent mayor and regional ANC chairperson Kgosientso Ramokgopa and his deputy, Mapiti Matsena. The two are supported by different factions, which led the ANC to decide on Didiza as a compromise candidate in a bid to stabilise the tension between the two groups.
This, however, saw the region become the centre of a series of chaotic and violent protests.
Msimanga believes the ANC is generously handing the city to him on a silver platter. The protests have escalated into violent scenes that left five people dead, more than 20 buses torched, infrastructure damaged and businesses looted.
“I can’t say I am totally happy at this week’s events as a citizen of Tshwane and can’t rejoice at the sight of buses burnt, buildings damaged, businesses looted and people killed. I can’t because, at the end of the day, it’s not only the ANC that is feeling the wrath of it, but the communities,” he says.
“I also do not want to come in and lead a lawless and broken city with damaged property, and spend time and resources rebuilding instead of focusing on a service delivery backlog.
“Yes, as a politician, the disorder in the ANC and the internal strife are working to my advantage. People have been saying to me the ANC is undermining them and they’re going to show it [by voting DA]. It is a plus for us in that branches are not able to organise as they concentrate on internal battles, but it’s a minus for communities because these violent protests are robbing them of infrastructure. And the money spent on repairs could have gone to service delivery.”
Asked for an opinion on his opponent, Didiza, he says: “She comes across as somebody who is very calm, with a good aura, and I like how she presides over the House in Parliament. But I am worried about anyone who protects [President] Jacob Zuma and who is appointed to toe the party line – [unlike Public Protector] Thuli Madonsela, who stood truthful to her office and detached herself from her own party.”
Dressed in a three-piece suit with a polka-dot tie, he speaks with a soft but deep voice. Oozing confidence, the Atteridgeville-born politician promises to crack the whip and change a lot in “cleaning up the mess left by the ANC”. Among others things, Msimanga intends to:
Set up a metro police narcotics unit to fight drugs, including the infamous nyaope;
Prevent the 40% water loss due to lack of infrastructural maintenance;
Formalise informal settlements and budget better for indigents to curb illegal water and electrical connections;
Establish an open public list process for the allocation of RDP houses to address the backlog;
Ensure equipment for emergency services and metro police, but have the latter on bicycles and on foot when patrolling the streets; and
Revitalise industries around the city and townships to create jobs.
He promises a restructuring process that will not result in job losses, but that is aimed at using the municipal workforce effectively by redeploying “misplaced employees”.
He says he plans to replicate the good track record of Cape Town in Tshwane by establishing a corruption-free city and a transparent municipality, and he plans to ensure “all people are equals, regardless of their political affiliation”.