Dan Plato promises to fix problems in Cape Town DA caucus

Incoming mayor says he meets with councillors daily to understand what led to breakdown in relations

Incoming mayor Plato promises to fix problems in Cape Town caucus by November

1 October 2018

Western Cape Community Safety MEC Dan Plato believes that most of the problems within the City of Cape Town's DA caucus will be resolved by his first day as Cape Town mayor.

This, after a year where the caucus, representing two-thirds of Cape Town's City council, was divided over the future of outgoing mayor Patricia de Lille and failed to vote along party lines in a motion of no confidence in council.

The City – long hailed as the best-governed metro in South Africa – also lost its clean audit status for the first time in a decade.

Plato said he met with councillors daily to understand what led to the breakdown in the caucus.

"If there's one thing I can give you my word for, it is that I'll fix 99% of [the problems in the caucus] by November," Plato told News24 in an interview in his office on Friday.

Pointing to his calendar on his desktop computer screen, Plato indicated the slots allocated for him to speak to councillors.

Engagements for DA metro chairperson Grant Twigg, Cape Town City manager Lungelo Mbandazayo and even De Lille were noticeable.

"A good leader always consults before making decisions to try and understand the complexities behind issues."

While Plato, who previously served as Cape Town mayor between 2009 and 2011, was careful not to blame De Lille for the breakdown in trust in the City's caucus, he believed the DA was "too compassionate" when it dealt with the De Lille saga.

"Look at the ANC who suspended a mayor for calling [President Cyril] Ramaphosa a sell-out, she was suspended two days later. The DA doesn't do things that way, we give people a chance to explain themselves; to allow a full investigation to be completed," he said.

"We are perhaps too compassionate in this manner, and there will always be people who criticise us, but we believe in the humanity of people above all."

Plato said De Lille was offered a "different government position" when she was asked to resign, but was unwilling to disclose which position was offered to her and whether she accepted it.

"We never left her (De Lille) alone. Look at [Premier] Helen Zille, who had tea with her. De Lille publicly thanked Zille for her advice," he said.

Zille, who holds no position in DA structures, was previously also publicly criticised by the DA for tweeting that not all aspects of the legacy of colonialism were negative.

Plato said one of the first issues he planned to address when he becomes Cape Town mayor in November, was the steep tariffs the City introduced.

"Last weekend at church, an elder came to me and said where he used to pay around R200 or more for electricity and water, it is now in the thousands."

"There might be legitimate reasons for it within the budget and when I speak to the relevant people, it will give me a better understanding. But as for now, I think it's too high."

Plato said his mayoral committee "will definitely be reshuffled", but he will not start with a "clean slate".

It is unclear whether mayoral committee member Brett Herron, seen as a De Lille ally, will be included in the reconstituted committee.

The mayoral committee will also be expanded and more portfolios introduced, Plato said.

"As it currently stands, and I've said it before, I think the mayoral committee lacks specialisation, a member doesn't have the space to become an expert in their field."

The City's current consolidated mayoral committee structure was introduced with De Lille's Organisational Development and Transformation Plan in 2017, which was later criticised by DA caucus members.

"Look at someone like JP Smith, who heads the portfolio of social services, health and security. What does JP know about health?" Plato asked.

"Mayoral committee members have to jump from one meeting about safety to the next one about health, which means they have divided attention."

Other key projects within the City of Cape Town, such as the Foreshore freeway project and inner-city housing project, will also continue, pending the necessary approval from the City caucus, Plato said.

The billion-rand Foreshore freeway project was canned shortly after a developer was announced, after the City apparently failed to adhere to its own legal requirements.

"The [Foreshore freeway project] is in the City's Integrated Development Plan (IDP). The City committed to it and I trust we'll be able to release tenders for it again when the time is right.

"But now there [are] architects and developers who spend a lot of money to come up with proposals and that needs to be sorted out first."

He said the City would also have to do better, particularly around issues such as housing, to make the public understand the complexities around it.

"There is a lot of permissions, such as environmental impact studies, that have to be granted before a project can commence. The City needs to do better to communicate that."

Plato, who resigned as Cape Town mayor to make space for De Lille, said he entered the race to become mayor after he was asked to.

"Several caucus members from across the spectrum asked me to return. They know what I did during my time there – a successful World Cup 2010 and clean audits – and they wanted me to come back.

"And they also wanted someone from the outside. Someone who isn't implicated in the City's troubles."

Before heading off to his next meeting, Plato said he became involved in politics because he wanted to make a change.

"NGOs wish they had the budgets and capacity the state has to impact people's lives. And we have to remind ourselves every day that that is what we are here for: for the people," he said.

"And as a Christian, I am taught to care about the poor, to care about the marginalised – to not only live for myself."