A bad week for Joburg mayor Mpho Phalatse
Her metro police step in to block the efforts of volunteers who have spent years restoring The Wilds as an oasis of peace
You wouldn’t have found many long odds that former bank robber Gayton McKenzie would actually turn out to be a force for good in the Central Karoo district municipality, where his Patriotic Alliance is in a coalition with the ANC and the Karoo Democratic Force. Yet, since becoming mayor in April, he has been all over the place to tackle the region’s long to-do list. Equally, uMngeni’s DA mayor, Chris Pappas, has for months now run a highly visible campaign of civic improvement, from road resurfacing to delivering stationery to schools. ANC councillors from eThekwini to Amathole are probably too busy holding imbizos and poring over the latest Mercedes catalogue to notice, but SA citizens will have taken note.
When South Africans take responsibility for their communities, as politicians so often urge them to, the last thing they expect are officious metro cops halting them in their tracks. Yet this is exactly what happened this week at The Wilds in Joburg, where the long arm of the law arrived to lean on the volunteers who have turned it into an urban oasis — entirely funded by community donations. The city accuses the volunteers — who were building wheelchair-accessible paths — of failing to comply with regulations. But, tweeted artist James Delaney, who has led the revival of the park: “We did our best, submitting exactly what was requested. We are up against an insurmountable mountain of red tape.” If Joburg mayor Mpho Phalatse wants to get residents on board, this is exactly the wrong way to do it.
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