It was function over form at the DA offices in Cape Town prior to the delayed final results announcement for Cape Town by the Independent Electoral Commission on Friday.After buzzing the downstairs door I was let in without question and wandered along the corridor past sparsely furnished offices with shelves of bulging files as I looked for Cape Town’s mayor-to-be, Patricia de Lille.
Anyone could have walked in, including Julius Malema, who was on a TV tuned to the news channel in an open-plan office, eliciting gasps from young DA activists as he spoke about the “white madam” and her “worker”, DA national spokesperson Lindiwe Mazibuko.
After finding de Lille’s PA I was ushered into an unprepossessing side office where de Lille joined me after wrapping up an earlier interview.
Engaging in none of the power play to which politicians and CEO’s occasionally resort, she candidly asked me where I would like her to sit.
Evidently tired but speaking in clear and measured tones, she swatted aside accusations of nepotism levelled against her as “baseless nonsense.
Allegations that she had used her influence to secure jobs for her son Alistair, who works as a clerk in Parliament, and her sister Sarah Paulse who is an ID MP, were “a sign of desperation from the ANC to try divert attention from a very positive campaign by the DA”.
Pressed further, she said Alistair was not employed by her and she had no influence on his getting the job, and Paulse was an elected member of parliament.
She refused to go any further into the list of family members who have been employed in local government or in the ID, saying she had a family with “a proud history in the anti-apartheid struggle” who had attained their positions on their own merits.
“(the allegations are) Nonsense, nonsense, nonsense.”
The barely concealed irritation in her voice dropped immediately upon mention of the problem of substance abuse in Cape Town, a scourge that has wrecked a number of working class communities.
As MEC for social development, her concern was not feigned. While more facilities to help addicts and alcoholics rehabilitate needed to put in place, it was the supply that had to be combated. Illegal shebeens needed to be shut down and the Metro Police, which have a specialised drug unit, needed to be continually resourced and trained in order to deal with the issue.
Her reputation of caring for the poor has resulted in her publicly stating she “would make helping the homeless people of the city a special mayoral project for the first three years of my administration”.
She has set out a six-point plan, including converting a city-owned building into a “one-stop assessment centre” to help people access services, strengthening relationships with NGOs and helping them with their financial oversight and reporting obligations.
While assisting the homeless is laudable, there are also 340 000 residents on the city housing application list, with 18 000 households migrating to the city each year.
Proper housing is a crucial, emotionally charged issue that has led to violent confrontations between communities and police, the most recent being in Mitchell’s Plain this week.
Part of the problem was that the number of migrants, both legal and illegal, creates a “shifting target” for housing, she said.
“It is a worldwide phenomenon of urbanisation and the brunt of it is being borne by Gauteng and Cape Town.
“I would like to look at other cities in the world – Brazil has a good urbanisation policy.”
She said she had been doing her homework in this regard – she never doubted the DA would win Cape Town – and had “started two weeks ago reading up on (urbanisation) success stories”.
Overcoming the “legacy of spatial development of the apartheid regime” would help solve the housing issue, as well as issues such as inequality and racial division.
“Over the next five years I would like to build a more inclusive city so that every Capetonian feels ‘this is my city’.”
“People should feel welcomed when they come here,” she said.
She says she plans to accomplish this by making use of the city’s history, and putting a well functioning public transport system in place so that people could move cheaply and easily across the metro.
Renovating and taking care of the historical and cultural emblems that were important to the city’s various communities would prove that the city was concerned with their heritage.
And a proper public transport system, such as the Khayelitsha rail extension and the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system currently being implemented, would “serve everyone”.
She believes this election has “exploded the myth that the DA is for rich white people” and she intended to continue to improve the DA’s track record of service delivery in the city.
Whether or not there would be another rates hike to enable further spending, she could not say.
Looking at the budget was “a priority” but she said the recent weeks of campaigning had prevented her from applying her mind to it.
“I can’t say (whether there will be further rates hikes) but collection rates are good and cross subsidisation allows us to spend more on poorer areas.”
The tiredness and stress disappeared from her face as she allowed herself a chuckle over whether a mayoral committee shuffle that would make it less pale was now on the cards.
“We will appoint the mayco in consultation with national and provincial leadership in the next two weeks. We have to consider representivity and gender. There’re a lot of skills out there in the city. There are really good people.”
And what would she like to see in an aerial view of Cape Town in five year’s time?
“I would love to see public transport infrastructure that has changed the lives of everyone…safe, efficient, reliable.” – Steve Kretzmann, West Cape News