OPINION:CITY FAILS IN PUBLIC PARTICIPATION MANDATE

 

The South African National Government Association (SALGA) has approved a  model with fifteen(15)  imperitives, streams and strategies  for public participation in municipal matters in line with section 152 of the Constitution of South Africa which confirms a number of citizen rights  and the rights of community organizations to be closely involved in the municipal affairs and this constitutional obligation  extends to the entire way a municipality functions and operates. They do this because of their legislative advocacy and oversight role. The City of Cape Town under successive administrations  including the ANC and the DA has failed miserably in this regard  and that is why there is so much polarisation and discontent in the City and why it is said that the City of Cape Town is a tale of three(3) Cities namely the Suburbs(mainly previously white), the townships in the Cape Flats(mainly coloured) and the informal settlements(mainly African). A fourth City is emerging in the likes of tin camps like Blikkiesdorp. So Cape Town is set to be a” tale of 4 cities”  and not the integrated City we all should  aspire to. When the Mayor  and her political regime speaks about Cape Town being a caring City and the  best run City she obviously refers to the comforts enjoyed by residents of  the suburbs with their generational advantages  put in place by apartheid policies and perpetuated today vigorously by the DA so they can remain in power in the City of Cape Town.

 

It is time that the Constitutional Court steps in and put to rest the argument of these two administrations that the “winner takes all” which was the position of the ANC when they were in power and “watch the scoreboard” which is the position of DA today. The Mayor and her mayoral committee goes out of their way at each Council meeting to say “ ons is die baas”  as they streamroll DA caucus decisions –  “ons is die baas” like we had to call our bosses and whites “baas”  in the worst days of apartheid.  I have been told in subcouncil meetings “ go and win a ward” so the views of my constituency although listened to does not count. The same ranting often occurs in portfolio committees.  In committee meetings there is a less dogmatic approach I must admit as passionate DA members on the ground  grapple with the issues of the day and there is  good multi – party co-operation. Small political  parties are given a minute to debate and have to suck up to the Chief Whip of the DA to get another minute. The ruling party and the official opposition party are allowed to rant on for many more minutes. Maybe not to blame as the ANC Chief Whip in parliament does the same but parliament has now upped debating time to 3 minutes and given opositon parties more space to influence decisions on a rotating basis with generous time allocation. We hope our Speaker will do better the accommodating person he is often going against the grain the ruling elite ruling party wants.  The DA majority reigns supreme today  as did the ANC when they were in power. In subcouncils the chair often slips up and for example  declares  that “the DA caucus has decided that grants will be submitted as per the report in the agenda and then invite debate. Ward councillors are just as brazen although the ward allocation money is granted to the sub council and not ward councillors. So when projects roll out they talk about “ my money”. Some will have events and hand out hundreds of  invitations to their constituency members  only and not even  give one or two invites to councillors from opposition parties or invite them  to the event although they all serve on the  same sub council is the case with treats for the elderly. Officials are falling in the same trap not to earn the ire of the ruling elite and even allow the Chief Whip of the ruling party and Council Support  to override their decisions like granting a council venue to an Opposition Party Councillor to inform refugees who live and work in the City about the City’s by laws and policies to ensure compliance and reduce conflict.  The DA’s position on refugees is well known except for its mayoral Committee member on safety and security which is more compassionate and the Mayor who cries out loud in the face of dissent on this. Here I am not talking about Eastern Cape “refugees” but those with legal status as refugees.  The political administration in the City of Cape Town must realise that the  majority of citizens in the City did not vote for them if you take into account the votes of the opposition parties, those who did not vote and the millions who are not registered as voters. Section 152 of the Constitution wants the voices of all of them to be heard and reflected in municipal decisions. This includes refugees in the City if we suppotr the Freedom charter  which states South Africa(including the City of Cape Town) belongs to all who live in it. The DA in the City of Cape Town cannot have the final say based on the mandate only  their voters gave them. The same applies to the ANC when they are in power.

 

The DA rules we are often told. “We won the majority of votes  go and do the same and then you can get your way  never mind the merits and the sad thing is that the ANC sits back and throw their hands up in despair and do nothing more. The Speaker accepts that the majority rules and is quick to say “close the doors so we can vote”.  All this is non compliant with our Constitution if I  study the SALGA model. The sooner the City becomes compliant the sooner Capetonians will benefit from the “wisdom of Solomon” our constitutional writes determined for us.  The saddest thing is that the citizens of the City of Cape Town do not  exercise their citizen rights and except for a half dozen or more  the thousands of community organizations  keep quiet. If they study the SALGA model and exercise their constitutional rights  they will not have to take to the streets or be seen as miscreants who flung faeces on the steps of legislature entrances. They are the only ones who will turnaround the perception that  the  City of Cape Town is one of the last apartheid outposts in spite of the best endeavours of its Mayor. This newspaper will do well if they put the SALGA model in the public domain and judge the way the City of Cape Town meets its  intrinsic values in terms of this model with every policy they make. The City will of course argue they are more than compliant with the SALGA model so we need the media to carry out its mandate which is so sadly lacking with regard to municipal matters which affects their readers the most. Their readers must also take the trouble to study the SALGA model.

 

Cllr Ganief Hendricks

WHIP AL JAMA-AH PARTY CITY OF CAPE TOWN.