Musical chairs at City

Ian Neilson. Picture: David Ritchie/African News Agency (ANA)

It’s musical chairs at the City of Cape Town’s mayoral office as acting mayor Ian Neilson will have to vacate the seat he held for only a few days.

Yesterday, Tuesday May 15, mayor Patricia de Lille won a temporary reprieve in her battle with the DA as the Western Cape High Court ruled she be reinstated as mayor and a DA member.

Judge Patrick Gamble ruled that Ms De Lille be granted relief and that she be reinstated as mayor pending the court review on Friday May 25. She will, however, have to be disciplined and follow the mandate of the DA.

Ms De Lille approached the courts last week to challenge the constitutionality of Section of the DA’s constitution which states that “a member ceases to be a member of the party when he or she publicly declares his or her intention to resign and or publicly declares his or her resignation from the party”.

Before the outcome of the court case was known, residents associations in Blaauwberg welcomed the appointment of Ian Neilson as acting mayor.

Last week Mr Neilson stepped in as acting mayor after the long-strained relationship between the DA and Ms De Lille finally ended.

Last week, Ms De Lille applied to the Western Cape High Court for an interim order reinstating her DA membership and position as mayor, pending an application by her for final relief against the DA to be heard next week.

Mr Neilson postponed appointing a new mayoral committee pending the outcome of the hearing, not because he was legally bound to do so, he said, but rather out of “respect to the court”.

Last week Karen Davis, chairwoman of the Greater Table Action Forum (GTAF) said: “We have all had to put up with insecurity and loss of confidence in the city management as a whole, and this has negatively impacted on our economy, our daily existence and public morale is at an all-time low,” said Ms Davis.

She said now was the time for change to restore faith in leadership.

“Things have been less than perfect for a few years now, and it has to be turned around, for the sake of all that live here, not just a few. A new mayor would mean a new management team and whoever that person is, has got to put the citizens of Cape Town first.

She believed Mr Neilson would ensure “ensure that all Capetonians will be treated in the manner they deserve and besides having a fairly acute business brain, he understands that there are two sides to any bank balance column.”

Melkbosstrand Residents’ Association (MRA) chairwoman Smokie la Grange said “the sooner the debacle over mayor Patricia de Lille is sorted out, the better.”

“The iniquitous price hikes proposed in the 2018/19 budget should never have been countenanced; nor the short time allowed for public debate. The combination doesn’t auger well for the DA, nor the City of Cape Town and elections are looming,” said Ms La Grange.

She hoped to see a positive mayoral change and a new impetus in getting stalled projects off the ground.

“Too many projects are behind time and being stalled while this unsavoury spat drains more of the taxpayers’ money,” she said.

Before the court’s decision put an end to Mr Neilson’s reign, Sandra Dickson, of activist group Stop City of Cape Town, disagreed that he was the right person to take the helm and said he had a “a dismal record” managing the water crisis.

“Under his management, there was only 25 megalitres of water augmented to the reticulation system while over R1 billion was spent. The temporary desalination plants are halted. According to him, R1.4 million of the money made available for water augmentation in the 2017 budget is unspent.

“He is also the architect of all the levies on the City’s services the City so desperately tries to implement.

“He proved to the public that by introducing the new water and electricity levies that he did not listen to 61 002 voices from the public during the drought charge public participation process in January. The public overwhelmingly rejected any form of a levy on water services,” said Ms Dickson.

She said the change of mayor in this instance meant “handing the reins from one autocratic type mayor to another”.

“The City will not benefit at all, as the rot has set in from the top and is widespread throughout the City. As long as politics comes before service delivery, the City will keep on failing,” she said.

Mandy da Matta, the vice-chairwoman of the Table View Ratepayers’ Association (TVRA), said the mayor should be elected by the city’s residents.

“We, as active residents, should be given the opportunity to elect a mayor of our own choosing, that is not a political party appointee.”

She said she hoped the appointment of a new mayor would herald a new era of transparent governance.

“The biggest objection we have as ratepayers is that the office of the mayor has basically been turned into a dictatorship under the disguise of a functional democracy giving the office of the mayor veto rights to sanction or deny developments and the presentation of a budget that exceeds the inflation rate and people’s salaries by more than 25% (in terms of the Municipal Finance Act). This may not be allowed to continue,” said Ms Da Matta.

“Do not present a budget in excess of inflation. People simply cannot afford it”.

In a statement on Monday May 14, Mr Neilson said that after considering a record
40 000 comments on the City’s draft budget, the proposed hikes to water and sanitation tariffs would be lowered before the council approved the final budget at the end of the month.

Among other things, certain proposed domestic, non-indigent water tariff increases had been reduced:

* Step 1 (less than 6 kl water usage per month): from 55.16% down to 10.10%.

* Step 2 (more than 6 kl but less than 10.5 kl water usage per month): from 6,26% down to 0%.

And certain proposed domestic non-indigent sanitation tariff increases had been reduced:

* Step 1 (less than 4.2 kl per month): from 78.71% down to 9.87%.

* Step 2 (between 4.2 kl and 7.35 kl per month): from 23.74% down to 0%.

The property rates increase is also proposed to be lowered from 7.2% to 6.5%.