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Andrew Donaldson on the DA’s #VoetsekPretoria plan for the province


A CURIOUS headline caught my attention a few weeks back: “Cape Town is full.” It was on a BusinessTech news report suggesting that, due to the sheer volume of new arrivals, “there is simply not enough space for the city to grow”. 

This was according to auctioneer Greg Dart, who claimed the Peninsula’s geography had severely limited the potential for development. He would, of course, say such things ahead of a council clear-out sale of undeveloped lots on behalf of the City of Cape Town. Properties from across across the Peninsula would be going under Dart’s hammer. They included plots in Muizenberg, Grassy Park, Tafelsig, Strandfontein, Khayelitsha, the Strand, Goodwood and Durbanville. 

This was a little at odds, though, with what buyers were primarily interested in, namely houses in upmarket areas like Newlands and the Gardens. But no matter — home is where you lay your head, and the further away from the ANC, the better. ___STEADY_PAYWALL___

Dart’s comments were supported by Brent Townes, of Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty, who revealed that a large scale business semigration to the Cape was also underway with a growing demand for office space, particularly in the northern suburbs.

Space in the city may be at a premium, and the prospect of the once pristine West coast under concrete and cluttered with developments in the Tuscan-Highveld vernacular is a gloomy one. 

But there may still be opportunities inland in the Karoo. Towns like Barrydale, Tulbagh, Prince Albert and Darling are now thriving, although admittedly a little overstuffed with those who have fled the rat race. Even the smaller, seemingly neglected dorps are now attracting potential buyers. Newcomers will no doubt be welcomed by the artists and bohemian types who decamped there in recent years as they have grown weary of selling doilies and rusks to one another.

On the whole, though, all of this is probably good news for the Western Cape. The province has had its fill of Pretoria’s maladministration and is beginning to flex its devolutionary muscles. The province is now aggressively seeking to get more powers delegated from national government. Simply put, it wants to look after itself.

In his “Straight Talk” letter this week, the DA’s John Steenhuisen explained that the Western Cape Provincial Powers Bill, tabled in the provincial legislature in May, would enable and instruct the provincial government to intervene “as far as constitutionally possible” in areas where the national government is failing.

And frankly, where is Pretoria not failing? From energy to education, law enforcement to public health, all is a shambles. The trains are a particular bugbear. Cape Town’s once efficient passenger rail system, a jewel in the city’s public transport crown, has been neglected by central government to the extent that it’s no longer fit for purpose. 

This is a crisis, Steenhuisen suggests. “There is a desperate need for an affordable, safe and reliable rail service for city commuters,” he writes. “A recent study found that passenger rail has so collapsed that there has been a 97.5 per cent drop in usage nationally in the last five years. This has been a massive blow to city commuters, for whom commuting by train was far cheaper and more convenient than by bus or taxi.”

A rail feasibility study, he adds, has found that an efficient passenger rail service will save Cape Town’s lower income households up to R932 million a year, sustain over 51 000 jobs, and pump an annual R11 billion into the local economy.

More importantly, the provincial powers bill provides a model for federalism that other provinces can emulate. 

This is not, then, a case of Cape Town and the Western Cape telling the rest of the country to get stuffed and shutting the doors behind them as they sail off into a sunset free of ANC bondage. Instead, it is just central government that must get stuffed. It’s #VoetsekPretoria all the way.

Steenhuisen is a bit more diplomatic in this regard, and puts it thus: “The more functions that can be codified in provincial law, the better not only for the Western Cape, but for other provinces too, wherever they have capacity.”

I rather like that closing qualifier — “wherever they have capacity” — and wonder if notoriously sensitive Limpopo and North West won’t rise to the bait and respond with aggrieved cries of DA racism and neo-paternalism and the like. They have capacity up there, all right, it’s just that they have yet to find how to switch it on. 

The DA believes that the parties in its “moonshot pact” stand a good chance to gain control of Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal in the elections next year. If so, they will have jurisdiction over two-thirds of the economy and 60 per cent of the country’s population. It’s an enticing vision.

Court short

To feudal KZN, where the Zulu king is reportedly recovering from a case of suspected poisoning. 

Here at the Slaughtered Lamb (“Finest Ales & Pies”) we do wish him well and hope to see him on his feet and resplendent in feathers and other bits of dead wildlife in the not too distant future but are nevertheless intrigued that Misizulu ka Zwelithini apparently opted for treatment in Eswatini rather than in a local hospital. 

There was a brief suggestion from certain regulars that the Russians, who are apparently experts when it comes to poisonings, may have had other, more urgent matters on their hands and were thus not able to attend to African dignitaries and their troubled stomachs in the customary manner. The Times of London, though, quoted Mangosuthu Buthelezi as saying, “His Majesty felt uncomfortable seeking treatment in South Africa, as his parents had both received treatment in South Africa and subsequently died.”

Not a winning endorsement, then, of the country’s medical services. I wonder though if it wasn’t a healthy dose of paranoia, rather than some toxin, that laid Zwelithini low. The Zulu crown is, after all (and do forgive me), something of a poisoned chalice. These royals tend to go all Shakespeare and off each other at the drop of a hat whenever the opportunity arises. 

Abdication is one suggestion for peace of mind. Another is to employ a court full of food tasters, although there can’t be many takers for this sort of work, particularly in Ulundi. Failing that, why not give up eating altogether?

Flanneled fools

South African cricket fans claim to support two national teams: the Proteas and any side playing Australia. It’s a position no doubt reinforced by the controversial stumping of England’s Jonny Bairstow at Lord’s on the final day of the second Test in the Ashes series. 

Bairstow, for those readers who have just joined us, had wandered from his crease, mistakenly assuming the ball was dead and that it was the end of the over, only to have Australian wicketkeeper Alex Carey throw the ball at the stumps, removing the bails. The dismissal was met with loud boos around the ground and, shortly afterwards, as the Australians trudged through the Long Room at Lord’s for the lunch break, they were subjected to a barrage of abuse and jeering by angry MCC members, many of them puce with rage, if not drink. Some were even held back by club stewards as they attempted to confront the cricketers.

David Warner, the Australian opener, was involved in two separate incidents with members, and had to be escorted by stewards to the team’s dressing room. The Times quoted him as saying afterwards, “Some of the stuff coming out of the members’ mouths was really disappointing. I wasn’t going to stand by and cop it. A few of them were throwing out some pretty big allegations and if they kept going … well, it’s your membership. I expect a lot better from the members.” (And so apparently did the MCC, who subsequently suspended three of them.)

The incident continues to play out in the fish-wraps. Many commentators point out that while Bairstow’s dismissal was technically in keeping with the rules of cricket, and therefore not cheating, it certainly wasn’t in “the spirit of the game”. Even prime minister Rishi Sunak waded into the row, courting a diplomatic spat, by suggesting the Australians were being a bit underhanded and sneaky. 

That may be, but I wonder if there would have been such a hue and cry had the boot been on the other foot, and it was an Australian batsman who had been dismissed in such a manner? After all, the English are such sticklers when it comes to the rules. Where, for example, would civilisation be without regulations?

Weirdly enough, the Bairstow dismissal proved to be a perfect, grievance-stuffed rallying point for England, with captain Ben Stokes having a stirring klap on Sunday afternoon in a valiant attempt to pull off what would have been hailed as the most remarkable run chase in Test history. Sadly, it didn’t happen. England nevertheless feel that Carey may have done them a favour, and there is talk that they now have a better chance of winning the series than they did before Bairstow’s dismissal. 

This is not a universally shared opinion. As the Guardian sportswriter Jonathan Liew puts it: “At which point it is probably necessary to let reality impinge just a little. England are 2-0 down not because of cheating Aussies or insufficient ambition, but because they are playing a superior side with superior cricketers, with more tones and shades to their game.”

On to Headingley then for the third Test. If England fail here, or at Old Trafford and the Oval, they go down as the first side to lose to Australia at home in more than two decades. South Africans may continue to root for England, but the smart money’s surely on Australia winning the series.