Tshwane: Reflections on my first year in office

Mayor Cilliers Brink writes on how his administration is seeking to realise its three strategic priorities

One year in office and I remain fully committed towards building a capital city that works for all its people

2 April 2024

One year ago on 28 March 2024, I had the honour of being elected to the role of the Executive Mayor of our beautiful capital city. I was tasked with the important job of leading our multiparty coalition government, stabilising City finances and improving the provision of basic services to all our residents.

This was indeed no easy task. Not soon after I was elected there was a massive pylon collapse plunging whole parts of the city into darkness. In the following months, we suffered sustained water outages from Rand Water, a tragic outbreak of cholera and an almost crippling three-month strike. However, by working together as a committed multiparty coalition, we have pushed ahead despite the many challenges that have faced our capital city in the past year.

As a coalition government and as Tshwane residents, we have more that binds us and unites us than divides us. I believe that we share a common interest of seeing our capital city prosper and becoming a city that works and provides opportunities for all who live in it.

Three strategic priorities

From the outset, I established three strategic priorities for our administration, which include stabilising City finances, stabilising energy and delivering quality services.

Guided by these priorities and our commitment to rescue the capital, let me share some of the progress we have made so far.

City finances

We have successfully relaunched our #TshwaneYaTima revenue-collection drive targeting all City debtors. Furthermore, the City has allocated additional resources to address the challenge of billing inaccuracies and ensure that billing disputes are dealt with effectively. We have made it possible that everyone gets a bill – if not online, then on their phones.

We have put together a solid financial rescue plan to increase revenue collection and reduce expenditure so that we stabilise the City’s finances.

This work is slow and will require a sustained effort over months, but we are being relentless about rescuing the City’s finances.

Audit report

The 2023 audit report from the Auditor-General shows an improvement from the 2022 adverse finding to this year’s qualified audit report. We acknowledge that more work must be done to ensure that we secure an unqualified opinion in the current financial year.

The measures we have put in place to respond to the Auditor-General’s findings are working. This includes far more rigorous oversight by the Mayoral Committee on rebuilding systems and controls to improve financial performance and to deliver value for taxpayers’ money.

An energy-secure city

We are progressing steadily to secure alternative ways of producing and procuring energy independent of Eskom.

Council approved the Rooiwal and Pretoria West Power Stations leasing report following a successful public participation process. This marked a milestone to move Tshwane closer to energy independence and securing at least 1 000 MW of alternative energy. Our next step will be the release of a Request for Proposals to the market to assess the appetite in the private sector to run these power stations.

A Request for Information to procure power from independent power producers has already been released and closed. The evaluations of the received proposals will begin soon and I look forward to communicating further on this in the future.

Partnerships with communities

We have adopted a whole-of-society approach to work in partnership with community groups, businesses and non-governmental organisations to help improve services for all our residents. As local government we cannot do it alone and we welcome and encourage any organisation that wants to partner with us.

So far, the City has entered into multiple memorandums of understanding with various groups that have an interest in improving services in their communities, and we welcome any others that wish to come forward.

Hammanskraal water

Upgrading Rooiwal Water Treatment Plant and ensuring a healthy supply of water to Hammanskraal residents is a top priority for our administration. Rooiwal Water Treatment Plant has now been handed over to a project management team to conclude Phase 1 of the upgrades at the plant. This is significant progress and occurred during this month.

We are working with the Department of Water and Sanitation, the National Treasury and the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) as the managing agent to resolve the water challenges in Hammanskraal. The City has allocated R450 million towards upgrading Rooiwal Water Treatment Plant over a three-year period. The first R150 million is allocated towards the finalisation of the current Phase 1 upgrades and we have ensured that the next round of funding is prioritised in our recently approved draft budget.

Law enforcement and urban management

Over the past year, I have had the pleasure to visit many communities in our capital city. I joined teams on the ground to evaluate our new Urban Management Plan, which started last year after the prolonged strike to drive core basic services with a special focus on key major routes and public spaces.

Under this programme we have been able to reach all corners of the city by cutting grass, maintaining cemeteries and repairing road infrastructure to ensure that the City’s presence is felt.

We have also worked with the Tshwane Metro Police Department to drive by-law enforcement. It is important that we maintain law and order in the capital city so that we can have a clean and safe city that we call home.

Driving high performance and professionalism in the workplace

To restore institutional stability, all Section 56 senior management positions have been filled by fit-for-purpose individuals on a permanent basis to ensure that we have high-quality individuals leading the administration. These managers have already shown their worth. Mr Gareth Mnisi, our Chief Financial Officer, has worked extremely hard to assist the City to improve its audit outcomes. Our new Chief of Police, Commissioner Yolanda Farro, has been exemplary in restoring discipline to the Tshwane Metro Police Department and driving by-law operations across Tshwane.

Political stability

Our administration has brought stability to Council. As a coalition we are able to vote as a bloc and pass important reports to benefit Tshwane residents. As coalition partners we have many differences, but we are united in our shared common goals to rescue Tshwane and deliver services.

Furthermore, I want to emphasise that when I took office last year, I made a commitment to make sure that I build a capital city that works for all its people. I am not leaving until that is done. I am here to stay and build on the progress we have made so far.

Cilliers Brink is Executive Mayor of Tshwane