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Why I'm leaving the DA - Herman Mashaba

Joburg Mayor says he has decided to place country over party

Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen,

I joined the Democratic Alliance, because I could no longer stand back and watch my country being destroyed by ANC corruption, failure and arrogance.

When I was approached by the DA to stand as the Johannesburg mayoral candidate, it was out of a deep desire to save my country that I accepted this undertaking.

Part of my acceptance of this undertaking was my belief in Mmusi Maimane’s vision of One South Africa for All.

I had no political aspirations at the time, and have subsequently turned down numerous requests to stand for leadership positions in the DA.

My decision to stand as a mayoral candidate was not motivated by the desire to hold political office, but out of a desire to serve the residents of Johannesburg and to get our City working again.

This is why I have always said, “When Johannesburg Works, South Africa Works.”
I am a liberal. I have devoted my life to the advancement of the free-market economy and I maintain a fundamental belief in the inalienable rights of every South African as recorded in the Bill of Rights.

I believe that the only way to expand individual freedom, and broaden access to opportunity, is to grow the economy and provide more of our people with the dignity of work.

And yet, I believe that a capable state has a responsibility to work pro-actively to address the legacy of inequality that persists 25 years after the fall of Apartheid.

Above all, I believe that my devotion to liberalism is not at odds with my desire to ensure that we live in a more just and equal South Africa.

However, I am gravely concerned that the DA I signed up to, is no longer the DA that has emerged out of this weekend’s Federal Council.

The DA no longer represents a party that is able to achieve what I desire most, a movement that can save South Africa, unseat the ANC and deliver One South Africa for All. Without this I am deeply concerned for the future of South African politics.

The DA has taken a resolution at this weekend’s Federal Council Meeting to question the role of the party in the governance relationship I find myself in, and the way in which we communicate on that relationship.

This follows the expression of views by a number of DA public representatives that these arrangements are undermining the DA’s message and contributed to its electoral decline.

I regard this to be the worst kind of short-sighted thinking, even by the very low bar set in recent times.

This position includes no perspective of the residents of Johannesburg and what they want for their city. This has simply been ignored.

I maintain that coalitions are the future of South African politics. For a political party to back away from such arrangements 18 months before a local government election that will invariably produce more coalitions, is tantamount to declaring itself to be unsuitable for the future.

The election of Helen Zille as the Chairperson of Federal Council represents a victory for people in the DA who stand diametrically opposed to my beliefs and value system, and I believe those of most South Africans of all backgrounds.

I cannot reconcile myself with a group of people who believe that race is irrelevant in the discussion of inequality and poverty in South Africa in 2019.

I cannot reconcile myself with people who do not see that South Africa is more unequal today than it was in 1994.

I cannot reconcile myself with people who fail to realise that we have a patriotic duty to unseat the ANC and save our country before it is too late.

With this grouping of people succeeding in their effort to take over the DA, I have no doubt whatsoever that they will move to collapse these governance arrangements.

At the heart of the matter, will be the pro-poor agenda that this multi-party government has executed.

I have stood in front of halls filled with upper-income Johannesburg residents who, without exception, understand the need to address the unsustainable inequality in our country.

Despite this, some members of the DA caucus in Johannesburg have suggested that we prioritise the needs of suburban residents above providing dignity to those forgotten people who remain without basic services 25 years after the end of Apartheid.

It is clear to me that in the same way that the review panel’s conclusions were determined from day one, any process of reviewing these coalition arrangements is similarly pre-determined.

I say this with certainty, because I have had to lead this 7-way minority coalition government without a solid mandate from the DA for the past 3 years.

From the very first day that I took office this coalition arrangement has been undermined, criticised and rendered nearly impossible. In every way, the DA has been the most difficult coalition partner in this arrangement.

Despite the fact that coalitions survive on consultation, shared programmes and recognising the contributions of each member, the DA has criticised and questioned my approach.

Despite the DA only winning 38% of the vote in 2016, elements in the party have expected me to govern arrogantly as if I have an outright majority.

I have had to deal with people who draw the artificial distinctions between service delivery in informal settlements and suburbs as a binary, an either-or type-approach.

I have had to deal with individuals who would rather I spent more time on cutting grass than on fixing our broken and aged infrastructure which threatens disaster in our City.

I have had to deal with people who did not want me to implement the insourcing programme that has benefitted over 7000 families and contained contractual costs, merely because it was not a DA policy. My response to the DA was, “then make it your policy.”

Unfortunately, it is these individuals who have triumphed at yesterday’s Federal Council meeting.

This is why I have no doubt, whatsoever, that the collapse of these governance arrangements is a foregone conclusion.

It is not in my nature to wait for people to push me, I have lived my life on my terms.

It is for this reason that I have called this press conference today to announce my resignation from the Democratic Alliance effective 27 November 2019.

It is on the request of Party Leadership that my resignation is held off until this date to afford them the opportunity to identify a new candidate.

By doing so, I will no longer serve as a Democratic Alliance Councillor and therefore I am required to resign as the Executive Mayor of the City of Johannesburg effective on the same date.

I have given this decision considerable thought and have been tortured by the circumstances that have led me to this moment.

It is not in my nature to quit anything in life. I succeeded under the darkest days of Apartheid when I was told that I could not be a businessman.

However, I cannot be a willing participant, in good conscience, in a process that is placing the narrow, internal interests of a political party ahead of the needs of the 5 million residents of Johannesburg.

The events of the past few months, and particularly this weekend, have required me to choose between my party and my country.
I have spent the past 3 years in government working tirelessly to rise above party politics in an attempt to unite a broad coalition.

The events of this weekend have left me at a crossroads where I can no longer ignore the internal dynamics of the DA and the continued attempts to undermine my pro-poor agenda in the City of Johannesburg.

I am now in a position where I am forced to choose between my party and my country.
As a patriot, I will always choose my country first.

While the papers will spend many hours writing up about who won and lost this weekend, the greatest loss belongs to the residents of Johannesburg, and those who saw these arrangements as a brighter future for our country.

Our multi-party coalition in Johannesburg has achieved enormous feats in the past 3 years against all odds.

Different political parties have put aside their differences and found common ground, in the interests of our residents.

This was possible because local government is a space where ideology matters less than service delivery, and ultimately this is what our 5 million residents needed most.

I am also pleased to be leaving the City in a significantly healthier financial position. We ended the 2018/19 financial year with R5.3 billion in cash reserves and a sinking fund valued at R2.7 billion.

This translates into 43 days’ worth of cash coverage. Double the 21.3 days we closed on in the previous financial year.

These significant reserves were not at the expense of service delivery with the City spending 91.3% of its capital budget in the 2018/19 financial year.

I also believe that when the Auditor General releases his report at the end of November this will result in improved audit outcomes for the City.

Our cutting back on frivolous expenditure through concerted austerity measures allowed us to increase the percentage of the capital budget spent on engineering infrastructure and housing from 58% in 2016 to 71% in 2019.

Arising from this, there has been a reduction of power outages in the homes of Johannesburg residents from 6.1 to 5.6 per household per annum.

Our programme of water pipe replacements has reduced the numbers of leaks and bursts by over 4000 per year, saving this precious commodity and reducing our losses.
Over 900km of roads have been resurfaced, out of the 4000km of roads that lay in poor and very poor conditions.

We have stabilised collapsing bridges which posed enormous threats to motorists across our City; most notably with the M2 Freeway which will be re-opened in the first week of November.

We have made major inroads into the billing crisis in Johannesburg, a problem that has existed for nearly 20 years. The number of queries every month has come down, the backlogs have been reduced and the average time to resolve queries has been halved.

Facilitated investments in the city has ballooned to 400% of where it stood when I entered office in 2016, rising from R4.5 billion in 2015/16 to R17.3 billion in 2018/19. For the first time in the history of this metro, business has been brought onboard as a partner rather than an adversary, unleashing the private sector’s potential to assist the City in addressing its many challenges.

We have extended the operating hours of 26 clinics across the City, which now operate late into the night and over weekends. Hundreds of patients have received lifesaving treatment after hours, and mobile clinics now take these services to communities situated far from primary healthcare facilities.

Under this government, the City’s first free substance abuse facilities have been rolled out with 5 now operating in communities most heavily afflicted by addiction.

The Inner City project stands poised to transform the skyline of Johannesburg, with 139 properties awarded for development and construction has already begun.

Last week, Council approved the expropriation of 37 abandoned factories across the City with the potential to produce heavy housing yields by virtue of the size of these stands. 16 of these are situated around Alexandra, where the need for such initiatives are sorely needed.

Our forensics unit, established under the leadership of General Shadrack Sibiya, has set the standard in the fight against corruption and wrong doing. With over 6000 cases under investigation, totalling more than R35 billion in expenditure. This unit has managed hundreds of arrests and dismissals of corrupt City officials.

Our diversification of housing, has seen the rollout of the largest site and service project in the history of the City, with more than 4000 serviced stands due in this financial year alone. We have waged a war on the indignity of residents living without services in informal settlements, bringing more electricity and water to these communities than ever before.

The City is close to welcoming 1,500 new JMPD officers who have been undergoing training since we initiated their recruitment in 2017. This will represent a 50% increase in the size of the JMPD force and greatly assist our efforts to bring law and order to the streets of Johannesburg.

In addition, a specialised K9 Narcotics Unit, another first in Johannesburg, is currently waging a war against drug dealers.

In many ways, the most emotional and difficult part of what has transpired in the DA, is that I will not be able to see some of these programmes through to their finality.

I am fully aware that the DA’s Constitution entitles the Party to terminate my membership immediately following this announcement. That is their right.

However, it is my hope that I will be allowed to see my work through to the end of November because there are many pressing matters that must be finalised.

Tomorrow, I am due to appear before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs, which arises from my request for such an audience. I will be there to present how the City of Johannesburg, and its residents, are severely impacted by a failing Home Affairs Department and an inability to protect the borders of our country.

Next week, I will be lodging our court papers against the NPA to pave the way towards the private prosecution of those who have stolen from our residents and have been protected by the SAPS and the NPA.

Also, on the 30th of October, I am due to hold the event to re-open the M2 bridge following the extensive and emergency bridge repairs that have inconvenienced motorists since the beginning of this year.

It remains the choice of the DA whether I will get to see these projects through to finality, but it is my hope that I can be afforded the dignity of ensuring that nobody can reverse these very difficult gains.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Serving as the Mayor of Johannesburg has been the toughest job anyone can possibly undertake. I often joke with staff by saying you only give this job to someone you dislike.
It has, however, been the greatest honour of my life.

I am very much a human being, and will be the first to admit that I make mistakes. When human beings are trying to achieve enormous feats of change, they will always make mistakes.

However, I leave with my head held high knowing that I have been honest, I have fought for the residents of this City and that I have taken every decision with their interests at heart rather than my own.

I would like to thank my coalition partners and the EFF for their dedication to the work of delivering the dignity of change to our residents. I regret more than you will ever know that we will not get to see out this term together.

Finally, and most importantly, I would like to thank the residents of Johannesburg for this great honour.

I have achieved many things in my 60 years, but nothing will ever bring me the pride and joy of seeing our residents benefitting from the dignity of service delivery that they have been denied over so many years.

Thank you.

Issued by Herman Mashaba, 21 October 2019