It’s the small deliverables such as clean cities, functioning traffic lights and smooth tarred roads that Gauteng local government and housing MEC Paul Mashatile is expecting from the province’s mayors, with his department taking over the driving seat in pushing big housing development projects.
He has set an ambitious target of doubling the number of houses delivered this financial year from 25,000 to 50,000. He also wants the housing waiting list to be cleaned up and digitalised.
Mr Mashatile returned to the province last month to bolster delivery ahead of a critical and tough local government election. The African National Congress did not do well in the last elections in 2014, punished at the polls largely by the unpopularity of the electronic tolling system and perceptions of corruption in government.
Mr Mashatile’s return provides the party with a heavyweight in charge of municipalities as he is the Gauteng party chairman.
Shortly after taking office, Mr Mashatile’s plans for housing development in the province hit a snag when the Treasury took back R1.2bn of its finances because the department had not spent the money fast enough.
Ultimately, R938m was reallocated from Gauteng’s housing grant to other provinces — a major blow to a province with a huge backlog in housing delivery.
Mr Mashatile admitted the department had spent too much time on planning and too little time on implementing those plans. The focus would now have to shift to implementation. He would slash the planning budget by half and hoped to see Gauteng become a “construction site” in the coming months, he said.
Housing was a “burning issue” and he conceded it was a “setback” to have lost the money, but hoped his turnaround plan would help.
Municipalities also receive a housing grant that will now be used for services, while his department will handle the “top structures” in housing development.
On the local government side, Premier David Makhura’s Ntirisano (“working together”) service delivery roadshows and a war room have led to a drop in service delivery protests. Delivering on the basics is the key message he has left with mayors, who he will be meeting every quarter. Whether the turnaround will be enough to reverse the party’s electoral fortunes in the province will be clearer after the local government polls.
Donning his Gauteng ANC chairman’s hat, Mr Mashatile explained that the province was preparing “very hard and not leaving anything to chance”.
National issues such as e-tolls and the debate on state capture were also likely to affect the party’s performance, he said. “Gauteng is the home of the middle class. They are concerned about issues of state capture and those things do impact on us in Gauteng — it’s not just the local issues.
“Our posture is very clear. We want an organisation that is going to tackle these issues and we are going to continue to do so.”
It would not be an easy election, but the ANC in the province was ready to listen to the concerns of residents, Mr Mashatile said.
“When wrong things happen, people think it’s the whole of the ANC, (that) we are all captured by the Guptas or whoever is capturing. But we are not,” he said.
source" Business Day