The City of Johannesburg. Picture: SUPPLIED
The City of Johannesburg. Picture: SUPPLIED

DA Johannesburg mayoral candidate Dr Mpho Phalatse has promised to address the R200bn infrastructure backlog in the metro by opening up the city for more private-sector involvement and to create a conducive environment for businesses to thrive to create much-needed jobs.

She said her party would increase investment in repair and maintenance of infrastructure. “Over and above that, we will be opening up for more private-sector participation. In the past there has been a lot of gatekeeping in that regard,” Phalatse told Business Day on Tuesday, after launching her party’s manifesto for the city.

Phalatse, who served as health and social development member of the mayoral committee (MMC) during Herman Mashaba’s tenure as executive mayor, said there was “great appetite” from the private sector to help the city address the infrastructure backlog.

“We will meet the demands of our residents if we partner with the private sector ... in addressing our infrastructure backlog. From 2016 to 2019 we worked a lot with the private sector — we took about 154 buildings that were hijacked and gave them to the private sector for development.”

DA leader John Steenhuisen said a lot of parties treated the private sector as an enemy, “but they are partners for growth. [We must] harness the skills and talent existing within the private sector to make things work”.

The country’s richest municipality, which contributes nearly 20% to GDP and about 40% to the economy of Gauteng, has been plagued by numerous challenges in recent months that caused the city to seek help from the private sector to repair potholes.

Apart from its ageing infrastructure including the electricity grid and roads network, the municipality was also recently hit by a water outage that affected hospitals and threatened businesses.

In May, the metro sought help from the private sector to repair close to 50,000 potholes, and in June was hit by a water outage that affected hospitals and threatened businesses.

Phalatse said she would use experiences acquired during Mashaba’s term in office to deal with the stubborn billing crisis in the metro, which in recent years had resulted in late bills, incorrect billing, lost credit notes, noncorresponding meter numbers and other inaccuracies.

“We had about 100,000 billing queries when we started in 2016 and in 2019 we had brought them down to 9,000. We will just do what we did back then, by looking where the bottlenecks are and addressing that,” she said.

In an interview with Business Day in August, the city’s finance MMC, Matshidiso Mfikoe, said to address the billing crisis, the metro would launch a bill management portal that would enable customers to view their municipal accounts, log in to their meter readings, and lodge queries, among other things. The portal was expected to cost R25m for the first phase.

On Tuesday, Phalatse said the DA would address residents’ billing queries within seven days through the use of a “live portal”.

“We will make sure that we have the right people in key strategic positions and do away with cadre deployment.”

The DA would lower the cost of doing business in the metro to attract investment and create jobs. When asked how the official opposition party would achieve this, Phalatse said: “The private sector is asking us to restore basic service delivery, then they will be able to thrive. Covid-19 impacted the economy, but there are industries that are thriving, like the IT sector where there are opportunities.”

The Covid-19 pandemic has negatively affected the SA economy, which contracted 7% in 2020. The country is also battling a record 34.4% unemployment rate, the world’s highest. It translates to 7.8-million jobless people after about 1.4-million jobs were lost due to pandemic in 2020.

Phalatse said businesses were reinventing themselves to stay afloat during Covid-19. “We just need to create an enabling environment as the government and create [business] confidence for them to invest in the city,” she said.

“While local governments are not responsible for the national economy, they still have a critical role to play in terms of offering sustainable, uninterrupted service delivery and ensuring clean and conducive environments for businesses to operate without more unnecessary hurdles.”

“The DA wants residents in Johannesburg to have jobs and will fight tooth and nail to ensure the local environment is ripe for such job creation.”


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