DA unveils metro mayoral candidates, dares others to do the same
The DA has announced a mixed bag of old and new candidates to run for mayorship in five of the country's eight metropolitan municipalities.
Incumbents in Tshwane (Randall Williams) and Nelson Mandela Bay's Nqaba Bhanga would retain their seats if the party had its way, while it announced three new names for Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni and Cape Town.
DA MP Geordin Hill-Lewis, 34, is most likely to comfortably attain his dream of becoming Cape Town's next mayor as the party enjoys strong support in the city. It governs the metro with a 67% majority attained in August 2016.
Accepting the nomination at a press conference held in Gqeberha on Monday, Hill-Lewis paid tribute to outgoing mayor Dan Plato, describing him not only as a worthy opponent and leader who will long be remembered for the courage he displayed in guiding Cape Town though of some of its stormiest times in recent history, but also as an exemplary democrat in the finest sense of the word.
Hill-Lewis promised that, if elected, he would work day and night to deliver better service to every resident of Cape Town. “No matter where you live, every Capetonian must live in a place that is safe, clean and with access to the services that everyone needs for dignity,” he said.
“I look forward to meeting you in your neighbourhood soon. In the months and years ahead, we will get to know each other well, as we build our home, our city, together,” he added.
If elected, Mpho Phalatse, the party's mayoral candidate for Johannesburg, will turn the city of gold into a city of golden opportunities, she said.
Phalatse has been a proportional representation (PR) councillor in the city since 2016. She served as mayoral committee member responsible for health and social development under Herman Mashaba's leadership.
“I stand ready to take up the tireless task of challenging for the leadership of the metro, so that I can dedicate every day in office to making Johannesburg work for our residents,” she said while accepting her nomination.
“The city of Johannesburg deserves so much better. Under the current government, it has become the capital of service delivery backlogs, countless electrical outages, water shortages and roads riddled with potholes. This is not how the economic hub of Africa is meant to function and I cannot stand to see it go on.”
Phalatse said she will hit the ground running, taking on a listening campaign, hearing out residents on how to take their plight forward. “In me the people of Johannesburg have a champion, a trusted friend, a committed servant. I am wholeheartedly committed to upholding and building upon the DA's record of good governance,” she said.
Phalatse said hers is an opportunity to galvanise society to reimagine and rebuild Johannesburg to be a city of hope, alive with opportunities.
“We will clean up the administration, we will clean up the city, we will sweep out the rot, deliver services, grow the economy and make Johannesburg the city of golden opportunities,” she said.
As a resident and former Ekurhuleni councillor, Refiloe Nt'sekhe said she was aware of “the complete and systemic collapse” of the municipality.
Nt'sekhe is the DA's deputy federal chairperson and its shadow MEC for social development in Gauteng.
“Ekurhuleni is the epitome of political ineptitude coupled with sheer disdain by those who were elected to run the city five years ago,” she said, citing power and water outages, roads in disrepair and urban decay, which she said was rife while poverty and squalor were the hallmarks of the incompetence of the ANC and its coalition partners.
“But these are not insurmountable challenges,” she said, promising that “like a surgeon removing a deadly tumour, I intend to remove the rot and restore my patient back to full strength”.
Nelson Mandela Bay's Bhanga hopes to build on the progress he said the party had made during its first tenure in government, between 2016 to 2018, before some of its coalition partners withdrew and handed the city to a UDM-ANC alliance.
Bhanga was elected mayor in December 2020 after that alliance fell apart.
“Since returning to government, in December 2020, the DA and its coalition partners have again made great strides in turning around the destruction brought to the city by two years of corrupt ANC-led coalition governance,” he said.
Williams, who has been Tshwane mayor since November, has similar ambitions.
“Since assuming office my commitment to our residents was very simple — that I would restore basic service delivery and stabilise the finances of the municipality. This is exactly where I have placed my focus during the past 10 months as we have sought to restore proper governance to the city of Tshwane,” he said.
Williams said they had achieved this stability with a minority government, which had brought with it its own challenges that they had to overcome.
“What it has shown us is that we can do so much more with a proper majority, so that we can govern the city outright and fully implement the policy positions of the DA to take the city forward,” he said.
DA federal chairperson Ivan Meyer said the party began its process of identifying and selecting councillor candidates in December 2019.
Applicants had to complete five modules to ensure that they are fit for purpose and are aware of what's expected from DA councillors, he said. After a thorough screening process, each aspirant candidate had to appear before a selection panel which tested their values, local government knowledge, political skills and capacity to lead and manage complex issues that communities are faced with daily.
Meyer said more than 6,000 applications were received. For those who wanted to serve as DA mayors, the process opened in November 2020. Every aspirant mayor had to compete and undergo interviews by a mayoral selection panel, which were held between April and August 2021.
“Our processes are thorough because we want to offer SA the very best,” he said.
Party leader John Steenhuisen said announcing mayoral candidates was an important part of the democratic process to allow voters to know, well ahead of the elections, who will be tasked with running their cities and towns should the party win those municipalities.
“Democracy isn’t just about casting your vote on election day. It’s a process and it should start well before the ballot box. It’s about listening to what they have to say, and then challenging the parts you either don’t agree with or simply don’t believe,” he said.
Steenhuisen challenged the ANC to follow suit and announce its candidates: “Make this election the open contest it was always meant to be. Put your candidates out there in front of the people, alongside ours.”