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About City Mayors
Cape Town Mayor Helen Zille
questioned by an international audience
City Mayors invited those who participated in World Mayor 2008 to put questions to Cape Town Mayor Helen Zille, winner of the 2008 World Mayor Award. From the questions received, a representative selection was forwarded to the Mayor. Below, she replies in detail, as well as with candour and thoughtfulness.
Questions & Answers
From Nei, Cape Town
Question: I have followed your life story since you were a young journalist breaking the Steve Biko story. What drove you from those days until now? Was it ambition or passion for the people?
Helen Zille replies: The person I am is largely a product of my upbringing and the example set by my parents, who left Germany separately during the 1930s. They raised their three children (of which I am the eldest) to be politically and socially aware, to resist injustice and to be responsible members of society. One of the most compelling memories of my youth is of my mother telling us about the people who sought help at the Black Sash Advice office. My mother was a volunteer there and dealt with the tragic consequences of apartheid’s laws on people’s lives. These discussions brought home the reality of apartheid in a way that few other middle class families experienced. Another strong memory is of the long drives to school with my father. We would buy the liberal newspaper, the Rand Daily Mail, at the start of the journey and I would read the news to him as he drove. We would then discuss current events, and talk about what could be done about the injustices of the time. Those experiences shaped me, and attracted me to journalism. I had outstanding editors who gave me real opportunities. Each opportunity led to the next. I resigned after my editor and mentor, Allister Sparks, was unjustly dismissed despite his enormous contribution to exposing the truth about apartheid South Africa.
From Danie de V, Belleville
Question: How much does your previous experience in journalism assist you in your position of Mayor of Cape Town?
Helen Zille replies: My journalistic experience assists me everyday. Journalism taught me how to work through long, complex documents and pick out the important points quickly. I learned how to move into unknown situations and ask the right questions to find out what was going on. I learned to listen to differing points of view and weigh up contradictory evidence. I learned how easy it is to draw the wrong conclusions from the available information, and how difficult it is to get close to the truth in many situations. I learned about human frailty and fallibility. I learned to work under pressure, and remain calm in a controversy. From my years as a political correspondent I learned how easily power is abused, and how important it is to have checks and balances on power. I learned about the importance of acknowledging mistakes rather than covering them up; of saying sorry and moving on. At a practical level I learned shorthand, which I use all the time. All these are transferable skills that I apply to the many challenges of the mayoralty in Cape Town.
From Annelie N, Pretoria
Question: At the moment the biggest problem in Cape Town is the condition of the poor people living in shacks, in and around Cape Town. The living conditions of those people, especially for children in the wet conditions of Cape Town is, to say the least, dreadful. It has been like that for the past 20 years. What are your plans to resolve this situation?
Helen Zille replies: The lack of basic services in the shack settlements around Cape Town is certainly one of the biggest problems we face. I have decided to address your question in some detail because the answer would otherwise be meaninglessly superficial.
When tackling a problem, it is useful to define it accurately, understand its causes, analyse a range of feasible solutions, and identify those that are sustainable, with the least risk of unintended negative consequences.
The Problem Definition:
(A problem definition is not a list of excuses. It is a realistic assessment of the challenge).
• The size of the challenge: Fourteen years ago, in 1994, there were 28,000 shacks in Cape Town. In 2006, when we came into office, we conducted a survey that identified 105,000 shacks in 222 informal settlements without services (or only rudimentary services) in various parts of Cape Town. Cape Town currently has 460,000 families on a waiting list for state housing, many of whom are long-standing Cape Town residents who have been on the waiting list for over 20 years. Urbanisation continues at a faster rate here than in any other province, as poor rural dwellers, particularly from the Eastern Cape, move here in search of economic opportunities. As a result of this demographic shift, the population of Cape Town has grown by 16% in the past decade.
• The location of the settlements: Most shack settlements are located on unserviced, invaded land, often within the annual floodplain of the Cape Flats’ low lying areas. These areas form natural storm water retention ponds every winter, as the high water table breaks the surface with the first heavy rains. This means that thousands of people find themselves living in natural lakes, which are very difficult to drain by conventional methods.
• The density of the settlements: Many informal settlements are so densely populated that it is impossible to provide services without moving people out. This is a lengthy and complex process that often leads to community conflict. As people move out, others often move in immediately, generating more conflict, and reverting back to the problem that the move was intended to solve in the first place.
• The unavailability and cost of land: The City owns very little land where the demand is greatest. In addition the cost of land is extremely high. Purchasing the required land at current prices would cost about R7-billion, and the cost of servicing it is estimated at R40-billion. (This does not include the cost of building houses). This projected cost must be compared with our annual capital budget of R4-billion for all services throughout the City.
• The legislation that controls development: The rigid legislative environment results in a long, slow process to purchase, release and service land for housing. It takes about 2,5 years to comply with the legal requirements from the time of purchase to the start of infrastructure provision. These laws include environmental, planning, heritage and transport legislation. Local government does not have the power to amend these laws. In the meantime, more and more people are arriving in Cape Town, resulting in the further densification of existing settlements or new land invasions. An additional legal hurdle is that the constitutional responsibility for building houses is at the Provincial (not the local) level. We have, for the past two years, sought the necessary accreditation as a local government to build houses, but the Province has not granted this.
• The conflict generated in the struggle for access to scarce resources: Some families on the housing waiting list are long-standing Cape Town residents who have been waiting for more than 20 years. Others arrived in Cape Town very recently. The recent arrivals often live in the worst conditions, especially during winter floods. This has sometimes resulted in their receiving priority allocation of serviced land. This generates intense resistance from people who have been waiting longer. It also leads to the unintended consequence of encouraging new land invasions in low-lying areas, as people think they may also be able to jump the housing queue when the winter rains set in.
Towards a Solution:
• Public-private partnerships: One of my first major initiatives as Mayor was to sign agreements with private sector partners, specifically banks, to address the low cost housing challenge jointly. We calculated that almost 25% of the housing waiting list could be serviced by the private sector. This means that approximately 100,000 families would be able to pay for their housing if the right product was delivered at the right price with the appropriate financing arrangements. Unfortunately, in the past, banks and developers have avoided the low-cost housing market for a range of reasons. Our new agreements have brought the banks and developers back into the low-cost housing market. One of the mechanisms we have used to increase affordability is to discount the cost of small parcels of City-owned land throughout Cape Town, on condition that this discount is passed on to the purchaser of the houses that are built, and suitable bond arrangements are made. The major banks have all responded positively and the first houses arising from this collaboration will be built early in 2009.
• Ongoing projects: There are currently 45 major projects underway, at various phases of the legislative process, to provide serviced land for housing opportunities across the City. Several of these are based on the “cross subsidy” model where a business component subsidises the housing component.
• New land acquisitions: We have recently spent R200-million purchasing appropriate land in order to commence with our upgrading plans. This land is currently being taken through the legislative process so that we can provide it can be serviced and released for housing development as soon as possible.
• Emergency servicing: We have ranked the 222 unserviced settlements in priority order and (over the past year) upgraded 4,500 toilets, provided 2,500 new ones (both chemical and flush), installed 1,400 new water stand-pipes and repaired 500 existing stand-pipes.
• In Situ upgrading: This is the most important component of our new approach to deal with the sheer scale of the challenge. We must be honest and acknowledge that it will be impossible and unaffordable for the state to build formal houses for all the families who need them in the foreseeable future. We must therefore provide families with assistance to upgrade their structures where they currently are. This requires the installation of a full range of formal services (roads, storm-water, potable water, sanitation, electricity). Before this is possible some families have to move out onto newly designated land in order to reduce densities and make construction work possible. We are currently identifying the five pilot settlements where we will introduce this major upgrading programme, and negotiations have begun to ensure it proceeds with the minimum amount of conflict possible. If the five pilot sites are a success, we will be able to roll this programme out rapidly, across all 222 unserviced informal settlements.
• Stop-gap measures to alleviate flooding: We have introduced a winter-readiness programme which includes digging channels for the water, procuring industrial pumps and tankers to remove the water, and providing emergency relief. This includes offering housing in community halls, with food, blankets and other provisions. Many of our systems were stretched beyond their limit this year because of the intensity of the winter rains and the simultaneous crisis of xenophobic violence that we had to manage throughout the City.
Finally: we must recognise that people come to the cities in search of a better life. When we upgrade shack settlements, it is important to ensure that they can develop into sustainable human settlements that provide other amenities that communities require, apart from shelter.
At local government level, it is our primary responsibility to ensure efficient, corruption-free delivery of infrastructure and services. This is essential to encourage investment and fuel economic growth, which is the only sustainable way to create jobs and alleviate poverty.
From Linda V S, Cape Town
Question: Cape Town is a beautiful city and although a lot has been done, conditions are not yet up to standard. What can be done to constructively accommodate the vagrant, and specifically the problem of street children who contribute to its decay?
Helen Zille replies: Street people and vagrancy are complex symptoms of deeper social problems such as substance abuse, dysfunctional families and psychiatric illness. We must address this challenge within the framework of our Constitution and the Bill of Rights. This means that the City does not have the right in law to coerce people to leave the streets.
Given this legal situation, there are two ways for us to address the challenge of street people and assist them to reconstruct their lives through rehabilitation or other appropriate treatment. These are (1) “self-referral” or (2) referral through the courts. We are actively pursuing both methods.
This requires street people (children and adults) to decide for themselves whether or not to enter a rehabilitation or treatment programme. This is a major challenge, particularly when people have been living on the streets for many years. We have run a pilot project that is producing good results, and which we are now replicating in four other areas in the city.
The key component of this process is the appointment of outreach workers who make contact with the street people, establish a trusting interaction with them, and offer them a package of opportunities to reconstruct their lives. This involves addiction rehabilitation, shelter, and “sheltered employment” in projects such as the street-sweeping “broom brigade”, graffiti removal, cutting poster strings from lamp-posts, and working as “dog marshalls” on the beach front. The condition of employment is that the person agrees to enter rehabilitation and accommodation in one of the “shelters”, which require sobriety. There are currently approximately 2,700 beds available in various shelters across the City. Several are supported and funded by the City.
The “outreach worker” programme was initiated in Sea Point, and has successfully brought down the number of street people in this area from about 350 to approximately 60. We are planning to extend this model across Cape Town.
• Referral through the courts:
This is a complementary intervention, which is part of our developmental approach to addressing vagrancy. We have passed a by-law that provides a mechanism to take people accused of a range of petty offences into the court system. We have also established a special “Displaced Peoples Unit” in the City’s Law Enforcement and Specialist Services division to enforce this by-law, and ensure that street people are aware of the options they have. The City also funds special municipal courts presided over by magistrates. In appropriate cases, convicted offenders are sentenced to “diversion programmes” which compels them to undergo rehabilitation, but keeps them out of prison and away from hardened criminals. These rehabilitation programmes are accompanied by physical shelter and sheltered employment. The serious gap in this process is the lack of appropriate rehabilitation centres for indigent, chronic alcoholics or people with severe psychiatric illnesses. The Province is responsible for providing these facilities through the Department of Social Development. At present, the City is working in partnership with various non-governmental organisations to provide the services required, but the situation is far from adequate. There is still a lot of work to do.
The same broad approach is followed with street children with an additional dimension. We have programmes to help children reintegrate with their families if this is possible and desirable in the interests of the child. Alternatively, the children are placed in special shelters, mainly run by NGOs. We have achieved considerable success with this approach, and the number of children living on the streets has reduced significantly. However, there is still a long way to go.
From Naomi P, Cape Town
Question: Helen, with our country being associated with high crime levels, what do you believe should be done at various levels to act against this scourge?
Helen Zille replies: Under our constitution, safety and security (including crime-fighting and prevention) are a highly centralised function of national government. Provinces play a monitoring role, and municipal police forces may exist to ensure compliance with by-laws and traffic control.
The Democratic Alliance (the party I lead) recently launched a new national policy to combat crime. It is based on the premise that crime drops when criminals know they will get caught and appropriately punished. The criminal justice system must have the capacity to apprehend, try, convict and sentence criminals efficiently, fairly and effectively. Aspects of our policy include crime prevention; the appointment, deployment and training of police in sufficient numbers and under significantly improved conditions of service; and merit-based appointments with regular performance appraisals that have career-related consequences. We propose substantially increased investment in forensic capability, the appointment of additional suitably qualified prosecutors and 24-hour courts to reduce backlogs. We propose mechanisms to root out police corruption, and to ensure the complete independence of the police from the ruling party so that politicians cannot abuse the criminal justice system. In addition, we advocate a new technology platform, based on an integrated GIS system, from which all relevant information (including finger-print matching, vehicle registrations, previous convictions and parole records of potential suspects etc.) can be accessed where needed, from a control centre to a crime scene.
In addition we have a comprehensive policy on prisons and correctional services, which is too detailed to summarise here. We believe that criminals sentenced to life imprisonment must remain in prison for the rest of their natural lives. We also support “diversion programmes” to rehabilitate petty offenders and prevent them from becoming hardened criminals in jail. We believe that prisoners should do productive work to contribute to their own upkeep and towards a “victims of crime fund”. Crime victims will be able to claim from this fund to compensate for physical and emotional suffering as well as financial loss.
Our policies place special emphasis on the victims of crime. We propose a special directorate to monitor the response of officials to crime survivors, and administer a toll-free helpline through which they can gain access to services and support.
At provincial level, we would ensure excellent oversight to hold senior office bearers accountable for the management and performance of the system.
At local level we have experience of trying to manage a municipal police force effectively, a task that was compromised by a previous administration’s patronage employment practices. It has taken us two years in Cape Town to restructure the force, deal with management problems at various levels, and introduce performance measurements.
This restructuring has led to the establishment of specialist units to deal with the City’s key crime-related problems. These include substance abuse (which is linked to most crimes committed in Cape Town), copper and cable-theft, and land invasions (among others). These units have begun to demonstrate good results. For example, the copper cable theft unit has reduced non-ferrous metal theft dramatically in the City. Two years ago, losses were estimated at around R22-milliion annually. The most recent annual estimate is R500,000.
Perhaps the greatest returns in terms of crime reduction have come from our public/private partnerships in the field of policing and crime prevention. In particular, the City’s partnership with business in central Cape Town, known as “the City Partnership”, has produced outstanding results and reversed the “crime and grime” decline of the inner City. Businesses in the City have contributed substantially to visible policing and strict law enforcement in a partnership between private security personnel and the municipal police, backed by the City’s network of CCTV cameras and traffic officers. This partnership has brought down serious crimes in Cape Town by over 90%. This is arguably the greatest crime combating success in the new South Africa.
We are now busy extending appropriate partnership models across the City, particularly in poorer areas. An example is the “Violence prevention through urban upgrading” project in Khayelitsha, which we run in partnership with the German Development Bank. This is an integrated crime combating and development programme. It includes a range of elements, from appropriate urban design to visible policing. This project, which covers some of the most crime-ridden areas of Khayelitsha, is beginning to show encouraging results. We are due to launch three additional pilot projects in disadvantaged areas through which we shall try to replicate our successes in building local partnerships (this time with “neighbourhood watches” and “community police forums”) to bring down crime. Our experience over the past two years has made me far more optimistic that crime can be reduced significantly.
The extent of substance abuse remains a serious problem in Cape Town. It is closely linked to crime. We estimate that 80% of crime in Cape Town is linked to substance abuse (particularly alcohol and methamphetamines). I have launched a special programme to deal with substance abuse, but there is still a lot of work to be done.
From Vic, Munster
Question: Do you have a strategy for uniting all the women in South Africa in the fight against crime, in much the same way as the women in Ireland united to overcome factionalism there?
Helen Zille replies: The question refers to the experience in Northern Ireland where the renowned “Women for Peace” movement was co-founded by Betty Williams and Mairead Corrigan after three children were killed in an incident in 1976 arising out of the civil conflict in their country.
Having been a member of the Black Sash women’s organisation for many years, I believe that women can achieve a great deal in polarised and conflict-ridden situations. In situations of violent factional conflict, women can stand together across all boundaries as champions of peace. They can promote tolerance and mutual understanding in a unique way.
In determining whether this approach would work to bring down crime, it is important to understand why our crime rate is so high. Most criminologists agree that one of the main causes of our high crime rate is the fact that our national criminal justice system is dysfunctional. Many people commit crimes because they know they have a much greater chance of getting away with it, than of getting caught and convicted. Current conviction rates reflect this. Statistics reported in the Annual report (2007/2008) of the South African Police Services reveal the following conviction rates: murder (12,6%); attempted murder (11,3%); rape (8,9%); house robberies (7,7%); car hijacking (7,29%). The real rate is undoubtedly even lower than these figures suggest, because many people do not bother reporting crime anymore, having lost confidence in the police and the system as a whole.
Factional conflict and crime are very different social phenomena that, I believe, require different strategies. The decline of the criminal justice system is a result of poor policy, patronage appointments, and bad management. In terms of the South African constitution, safety and security is a national government competence, exercised with provincial oversight. From my position as Mayor, I have no capacity to influence the national system, beyond the metropolitan police force, which has a very limited mandate.
Unemployment and poverty also contribute to our crime rate (although it must be said that there are countries far more poverty stricken than South Africa, with significantly lower crime rates). The solution to these problems must start in the realm of the political economy. I am currently also the leader of South Africa’s official opposition, and in that capacity one of my main functions is to oversee the preparation of excellent policy solutions, that give South Africans (men and women) a good reason to vote for an alternative to the ruling party, in the country’s interest.
I am also a strong supporter of symbolic initiatives. For example, I (and many other women) participated in the recent “Million Men March” opposing domestic violence, which goes largely unreported in our country.
Question: Would you consider bringing back the death penalty if the Democratic Alliance formed the next government?
Helen Zille replies: The political party I lead, the Democratic Alliance, allows a “free vote” on the issue of the death penalty. In other words, our members and public representatives are free to follow their own conscience and make up their own minds on the issue of capital punishment. The majority of DA members would probably support bringing back the death penalty, but I do not. There are many reasons, besides ethical reasons, for my position.
Firstly, no penalty can serve as a deterrent, unless criminals are actually arrested, charged and convicted. Until this happens, they cannot be sentenced. According to the latest SAPS report tabled in Parliament, our conviction rates are pitifully low. (See answer to question 6). We should therefore focus on rebuilding our criminal justice system so that it can track down criminals, gather evidence that will stand up in court, and secure convictions. The vast majority of murderers and rapists are never brought to trial. In this context the severity of any theoretical penalty is academic.
A second reason for my opposition to the death penalty is the number of cases that come to my attention where people have been wrongly convicted of serious crimes. These cases reinforce my view that the dangers of the death penalty in our dysfunctional criminal justice system would outweigh any deterrent value that capital punishment might have. Just recently I read a horrific account of a gardener, Mr Gibson Rozani, who was sentenced to a long jail term for allegedly raping a child. Mr Rozani’s employer (a Mrs Hockly), believing in his innocence, embarked on a long and expensive campaign to establish the facts and secure a retrial, where he was found to have been wrongly convicted and sentenced. It turned out that Rozani’s lawyer in the original trial had persuaded him to plead guilty, without explaining the implications to him. His lawyer had also failed to place the medical report before the court, which established that the alleged victim was still a virgin and that there was no medical indication that a rape had taken place. Furthermore, the prosecutor had failed to submit the medical report to the magistrate. The safeguards supposedly inherent in our criminal justice system were therefore subverted by a single negligent omission on the part of both an incompetent defence attorney and the prosecution.
Mrs Hockly’s determination to prove her gardener’s innocence reflects unusual dedication. In most other circumstances, people like Mr Rozani (who does not speak English) could expect to spend many years in jail. If the death penalty is imposed in such circumstances, it is obviously irreversible.
You may also recall the recent case where Mr Fred Van der Vyver, the son of a very wealthy farmer, was acquitted on charges of murdering his girlfriend. His father spent R9-million on his son’s defence, which included the testimony of international forensic experts, who established that police investigators had perjured themselves before the court, and allegedly manufactured incriminating evidence against the accused. Where police investigators are potentially capable of defeating the ends of justice, and especially where the criminal justice system is open to political influence, it is easy to see how the ultimate penalty could be abused.
In the South African context, where there is still such a discrepancy between justice for the rich and justice for the poor, it is also very difficult to justify the death penalty in situations where people may have inadequate legal defence.
I support very tough anti-crime policies, and believe that a life sentence must mean “life”. But the potential for abuse and injustice through the death penalty in our country, leads me to believe that we should not reintroduce it.
From Hernando P, Atlanta, USA
Question: What have you done to reduce the number of xenophobic attacks in your city?
Helen Zille replies: In June 2006, shortly after our multi-party coalition came to power, we hosted a conference in the Civic Centre to promote public understanding of the plight of refugees. I signed, on behalf of the City, a declaration of refugees’ rights which states that “the City of Cape Town agrees and undertakes within its legal and constitutional mandate to uphold and recognise the rights of refugees, to strive -- within its means -- to give effect to these rights and to support refugees’ local integration into society”. This declaration was widely publicised and distributed to some 800,000 households throughout the City in our news publication.
Eighteen months ago we also offered assistance to the Department of Home Affairs to process the extensive backlog in applications by thousands of people from across the continent seeking asylum and refugee status in Cape Town. Processing these applications is not a local government function, but we offered support because of the extensive backlogs and the unacceptable conditions in which asylum seekers were living, while waiting to submit their applications. We also provided toilets and basic services at the site where asylum seekers queued each day waiting for their turn to be transported to the Home Affairs offices.
When xenophobic violence erupted in Gauteng, in May 2008, we publicly condemned the attacks and prepared to deal with the risk of a similar situation in Cape Town. Our preparations involved the co-ordination of all role players in the City to establish a “disaster management centre” headed by senior officials.
A few hours after the first xenophobic violence in Du Noon on May 22, I was in the streets at the site, speaking to members of the local community in a bid to end the violence. Although the outbreaks of violence that followed were sporadic and relatively contained, thousands of refugees fled their homes throughout the City, and our disaster management plan was activated. I ordered the opening of 15 municipal halls and sports centres around Cape Town to shelter approximately 8,000 refugees. By early morning when the scale of the dislocation became apparent, we took a decision to consolidate our efforts, and those of the NGOs who supported us, in a few major “safe sites”. We realised it would not be logistically feasible to extend our limited resources across small locations throughout the City. We then opened the large, City-owned holiday resorts to refugees, where we provided additional large tents for more accommodation. Within a few days the City (together with churches, mosques and private individuals) had found accommodation for about 22,000 displaced people. This constituted the biggest disaster management operation the City has ever faced. It was manifestly beyond local government’s limited capacity and resources to deal with, and I called on assistance from provincial and national government, as well as the United Nations. When the disaster was formally declared a “provincial disaster”, we secured additional resources, and the Province assumed the overall management of the situation, with the City playing a supportive role in managing the safe sites and backing initiatives to secure peaceful reintegration. Altogether, the City contributed approximately R80-million to alleviating the crisis, providing shelter and other basic services (such as tents with wooden floors, mattresses and blankets, electricity, toilets, showers, 24-hour security, refuse removal, etc). We also made available the full-time services of 70 members of the City’s staff to assist the Department of Home Affairs processing documentation for displaced people seeking refugee status or voluntary repatriation.
It is important to add that the management of the refugee crisis has been mired in controversy. There were tensions between local and provincial government, and between non-governmental organisations and all three spheres of government. In addition, there was a lot of anger expressed by the refugees, as well as the local community who argued that government was doing more for refugees than for local shack-dwellers. In the middle of the refugee crisis we had severe storms, which caused serious flooding, displacing approximately 5,000 local residents who also had to be accommodated elsewhere, many in community halls. We then found ourselves managing a dual emergency. This would not have been possible without the exceptional assistance of many dedicated organisations and individuals, who gave selflessly of their time and resources to deal with the crisis.
In recent weeks, xenophobic violence threatened to erupt again when traders in Khayelitsha issued warnings of imminent violence to foreign businessmen unless they stopped trading in the area. On investigation we established that the local businessmen believed their businesses could not compete with those of foreign nationals. The City’s department of Economic Development facilitated a truce and initiated business training to assist local businesses to become viable in a competitive environment. We hope in this way to deal with some of the contributory causes of xenophobia, not merely the symptoms.
There are currently approximately 2,200 people still in the three consolidated safe sites that are due to close by the middle of October. Approximately 20,000 people have either been successfully reintegrated or chosen the option of repatriation to their countries of origin.
From Jeremy B., Oklahoma City, USA
Question: The infrastructure of Cape Town seems to be overwhelmed: the influx of people from rural areas seeking jobs, the migration from the Highveld to the coast of people trying to avoid the perceived violence on the Reef, refugees from the rest of Africa, middle and upper class people from overseas buying up prime Cape homes, and the massive influx of tourists making Cape Town the number one tourist destination on the continent: all have combined to make Cape Town almost seem suffocating. What are your long-term plans to keep Cape Town the jewel that it is and yet a place of opportunity for those seeking a better life?
Helen Zille replies: My response is based on the premise that Cape Town is regarded as an international “jewel” because of our priceless natural environment and biodiversity (although our demographic and cultural diversity adds to our unique attractiveness as well).
Our term-of-office plan, the Integrated Development Plan (IDP) defines our key objective as “infrastructure-led economic growth”. This recognises that the primary constitutional role of local government is basic service provision. In the 30 months we have been in office, we have tripled spending on essential capital infrastructure (water, sewerage, electricity reticulation, roads and transport, storm water etc). These services are essential to create opportunities for the poor and to secure conditions for investment, economic growth and job creation. We have done this in a spatial context that recognises how important it is to maintain a balance between development and conservation. Much of the work we are doing to create human settlements is summarised in my answer to question 3. This answer will therefore focus on sustaining the natural environment.
Our IDP recognises that Cape Town’s natural resources are our biggest economic asset. We also recognise how demographic pressures, from a variety of sources, threaten these assets. It is a particular challenge to secure land for human settlement in a region that has the world’s richest, and most threatened biodiversity. This means that we have to find ways of increasing densities in areas designated for development, while carefully preserving other areas.
The Cape Floristic Region is a global hotspot of biodiversity -- richer than anywhere else in the world, with 70% of its plants found nowhere else on the planet. Seven of the 19 critically endangered vegetation types in South Africa are found within our municipality.
We have two Biosphere Reserves within Cape Town’s boundaries and two World Heritage sites. We also have an entire National Park, the Table Mountain National Park, (with the highest level of conservation protection in the country) within our municipal boundaries.
It is also a painful fact that many of our citizens are unemployed and struggling for survival. They come to Cape Town to escape the even harsher realities of rural poverty. Inevitably, the growing demand for land to develop sustainable human settlements puts our natural resources at risk.
We are facing these challenges. Our Integrated Metropolitan Environmental Policy (IMEP) adopted under a previous Council in 2001, is a pioneering document providing a framework for the development and shaping of our City. Our Council recently adopted a motion that now requires every report to consider the implications for the environment, measured by the standards of IMEP. We have adopted several IMEP implementation strategies, including Coastal Management (for our 308 km of coastline), Biodiversity, Environmental Education, and Energy and Climate Change, which set out in some detail objectives, targets and responsibilities in respect of each of these sectoral themes.
As part of our plan to manage and conserve open space environments for conservation, recreation, education and tourism, we now manage 24 Local Authority Nature Reserves throughout the City, apart from the Table Mountain National Party (national level protection) and the Driftsands Nature Reserve (provincial protection). We have also resolved to preserve our biodiversity to meet national and local conservation targets through a formal “biodiversity network”, which comprises sites with core conservation areas, linked by corridors, which allow the movement of animals and the dispersal of seed plants. Our 24 reserves form part of this network.
Finally, we are also actively involved in international programmes and projects, which help us build sustainable partnerships because we realise that we cannot achieve our objectives alone as we week to balance conservation and development. An example of this is the Local Action for Biodiversity (LAB) project, which Cape Town initiated in 2006 at the ICLEI Local Governments for Sustainability World Congress that was held in our City. This is now a flourishing international programme drawing together 21 cities from all continents to enhance biodiversity at local government and city level. Perhaps Oklahoma City would like to consider joining the LAB initiative and become part of our global quest to sustain and enhance biodiversity within cities?
From Galia A. K., Cape Town
Question: Will the infrastructure for public transport such as trains and buses improve and will we ever be safe using the public transport system again?
Helen Zille replies: If I had to identify a single project that will fundamentally change Cape Town for the better, it is our planned “bus rapid transit” (BRT) network that will be a key component of our new integrated public transport system. The first phase of BRT will be completed by the 2010 Soccer World Cup, with several phases to follow. By 2018 the plan is that all Capetonians will have access to reliable, safe and clean public transport within a maximum of 500 metres from where they live. We have contracted the world’s leading experts on integrated public transport (especially bus rapid transit) to draw up and implement our plan, and we are getting outstanding support from the national government in its financing and implementation. We are also being advised by Enrique Penalosa, former Mayor of Bogota, where the BRT system has been implemented with great success, in conditions comparable to our own. BRT functions like a light rail service, at about one twentieth of the cost. It involves dedicated bus lanes, integrated with other modes of transport, with a single “smart card” system, to facilitate modal switches where necessary.
Our first major BRT route will be from the City centre, through the west coast suburbs towards Atlantis, where there is presently hardly any public transport. This route will run through middle class and poor areas, making affordable public transport accessible to all.
As your question focused specifically on safety, let me address this issue in particular. All the new, custom-designed BRT platforms will be monitored by closed-circuit TV cameras, linked to a security control centre responsible for managing the security of the network as a whole. We envisage a public-private partnership to manage this system. The security cameras will be in each bus as well. Drivers will be in hands-free communication with the security control centre, where they will be able to summon security personnel at any time. Every platform will also be equipped with “emergency call boxes” where commuters can communicate directly, at the press of a button, with the control centre.
The rail service is important in an integrated system. Unfortunately, local government has no jurisdiction over the rail transport. The SA Rail Commuter Corporation is a state-owned enterprise under national government. I have been briefed on their plans, which include a multi-billion Rand upgrade for trains and stations, so we are anticipating a marked improvement in the quality of this service as well.
Question: A very high crime rate and poor leadership at national level result in many South Africans emigrating. Why do you still believe in a future for Cape Town and South Africa?
Helen Zille replies: I am actually more optimistic about South Africa’s future than I have been for a long time. I look beyond the surface of events, to identify the direction in which the currents are moving us. I am also in regular contact with leaders across the political spectrum to discuss developments, and future scenarios.
In answers to previous questions I have dealt with issues such as crime. In this answer I will deal with the “macro political issue” that is the root of much of my optimism.
During the next few years, there will be a fundamental realignment in South African politics. The current political formations are obsolete and stuck in the past. The emerging divide in South African politics is between those of us who are working for an “open, opportunity-driven society”, and others who prefer the “closed, patronage-driven” model. I have further elaborated on this distinction in the answer to Question 16.
The dividing line between these two visions for the future runs right down the middle of the ANC. My role, as leader of the Democratic Alliance, is to help facilitate the realignment of politics so that all those of us, who support the vision of the “open, opportunity-driven society” can converge in the same political home. I also have little doubt that we will constitute a majority in South Africa. My aim is that this new political formation, of which the DA will be a core component, will win the 2011 elections in several major cities, and many towns, and then the national general election in 2014 -- only six years from now. This is a realistic scenario, and is the source of much of my optimism. It is certainly something worth working towards. This gives me a great sense of purpose in life, which is priceless.
From David T, London, England
Question: During the Apartheid years many thousands of members of South Africa’s Jewish community left the country, taking with them valuable skills and expertise. Do you think they and their children should be actively encouraged to return to South Africa?
Helen Zille replies: Yes, I do. Over the next three decades, South Africa will be the most exhilarating and challenging place in the world to live. I am genuinely more optimistic about the future than I have been for a long time, as I explained in answering the previous question. We face a great challenge of making a constitutional democracy work well in a complex, plural society. We have to ensure stability and economic growth. Our government is beginning to realise how crucial skills are to this endeavour. We remind them of this all the time. There is a huge demand in our economy for people with high-level skills. In fact, there are few places on earth where skilled, committed, creative people can make such a difference to the future of their country as they can in South Africa. Religious freedom and freedom of association are well established as core values. South Africa’s Jewish community is highly respected by all and makes a contribution to the development of our nation far beyond their numbers, in every walk of life.
From Garth E, Cape Town
Question: I would like to know how the mayor plans to address longer-term issues when generally politicians tend to have a ‘term-of-office’ planning horizon? In the City of Cape Town and South Africa as a whole there is tremendous pressure to make voters happy and give in to their short-term needs and wants to gain votes.
Helen Zille replies: When we came to office in Cape Town in 2006, there was a long-term spatial plan for the City/Region. We considered this too limited and began a process of compiling a Medium-Term Growth and Development Strategy, involving various departments, co-ordinated by the Executive Director of Service Delivery Integration. A first draft of this comprehensive plan is due to be presented to the Mayoral Committee within a fortnight. Because accurate predictions over the medium term are difficult, we are postulating various scenarios for which we can prepare. The capacity for flexibility in the light of unanticipated developments is essential.
I expect the draft to propose strategic planning options to address the following key questions:
Context: What will the main forces be that drive developments in our region, province, country, continent and the world over the next three decades? What context will these create for a City like Cape Town? For example, is a new Asian superpower likely to emerge and what will be the implications for Africa? What is the prognosis for greater peace and stability on our continent -- or will conflict escalate? What impact can we expect from climate change and global warming?
People: How many people must we plan for in Cape Town? What are the demographic and socio-economic trends? Will inward migration increase as a result of growing conflict and under-development in other regions? What will the growth rate and age profile of the population be? What is the projected match between available skills and required skills?
Spatial/Environmental: What should the city look like in 30 years time? How do we densify the city and concentrate growth in order to limit urban sprawl into the surrounding agricultural and natural areas and to optimise the use of our infrastructure? How do we secure our matchless biodiversity and environment while accommodating growth and development?
Economic: How will the international economic order change and how will the local economy relate to the world order? How will technological developments change the world economy, and how can we ensure that we are not left behind? What is the role of tourism in relation to other industries and what are these other industries? Which sectors do we want to develop and which, if any, do we want to discourage? Where is the new medium to long-term economic growth likely to come from? How can we compete with cities internationally that do not face the developmental challenges that we face?
Infrastructure: What infrastructure will be required (ranging from sewerage works to broadband connectivity) to provide adequate services and to sustain economic growth? If we cannot afford everything, what are the priorities? What partnerships are necessary to deliver them? How will they be financed?
Knowledge Production and Management: How can Cape Town maintain and extend its role as the key centre for education on the continent? How can we establish sound, productive relationships between centres of education and encourage the research that is essential to development? What infrastructure (such as affordable broadband connectivity) will be needed to achieve this?
Skills: What must be done about the projected mismatch between available skills and emerging job opportunities? What must we do to retain, attract and build a sound skills base within the City’s people? What is likely to happen in the education system (over which the City has no control) and what are the implications for the skills challenge?
Safety: How can the City make the best possible contribution to safety, given the limited role envisaged for local government under the constitution? How can we act as a catalyst to ensure that all security role players, public and private, work together to develop a comprehensive and integrated approach? How can we move from a limited, logistical “metropolitan police plan” to a comprehensive metropolitan “safety plan” involving all role players? How can we best address the underlying causes of our high crime rate such as unemployment, lack of education and substance abuse?
Energy: How do we move to alternative sources of energy? What is the potential of a range of different sources, from nuclear through to green energy? What is the potential of greater reliance on wind and wave energy in Cape Town? How can these sources of energy be made affordable and commercially viable? What strategies are necessary to reduce the City’s carbon footprint?
Transport: What must we do to ensure that commuters move away from private vehicles to safe, accessible, clean, efficient and reliable public transport?
Finance for development: the current situation in which the services of two-thirds of our residents are subsidised by one-third will soon become unsustainable. What strategies are available to address this situation? How can we sustain and increase our revenue base?
Health: Can we assume that the HIV/AIDS and TB epidemics will peak and decline in the next decade? What emerging strategies can we use to achieve this? What will the new health challenges be and how do we prepare for them?
These are just some of the questions we are addressing in our Medium-Term Growth and Development Strategy, which will also involve other stakeholders playing complementary roles in appropriate public/private partnerships.
From Xico M
Question: How difficult has it been for the Democratic Alliance to attract black voters and leaders particularly in South Africa’s townships?
Helen Zille replies: It has been difficult, but it is becoming easier all the time. I have worked in poor, black communities in Cape Town since I moved here in 1978. About 15 years ago, I started promoting the DA’s policies in these communities, and establishing branches for the party there. At the time, we experienced extreme hostility. Those residents who were brave enough to join us often risked everything to do so. They sometimes faced physical attack and damage to their property.
The Cape Town local government election of 2006 was an important milestone in our democracy because, for the first time, the ANC was removed from office through the ballot box. This would not have happened without the support of a small, but substantial proportion of black residents. The result of that election generated some resistance from black communities. For example, shortly after my election as mayor, I was invited by some of my black colleagues to address a meeting in Crossroads, a part of Cape Town strongly associated with the anti-apartheid struggle, where I have worked in various voluntary capacities since 1979 without any problem at all. However, when I arrived in mid-2006, I was confronted in the hall by a group of protesters who threw chairs at me, threatened me with a knife, and stoned my car.
Things have improved dramatically since then. I work in poor communities (which are predominantly black and coloured) more than any other areas, to monitor progress on service delivery, and consult local leadership on projects ranging from cleansing to electricity provision. We now have 15 thriving branches in predominantly black areas of Cape Town. I myself live in a predominantly black suburb, and have done so very happily for 24 years.
Electorally, we are making good progress as well. At a national level, we recently won three by-elections from the ANC, which is an encouraging indication of a new trend. For the forthcoming 2009 election, we have attracted excellent black candidates, who are now prepared to take the plunge and stand publicly for us. They know that politics in South Africa is about a shared future, not our divided past.
From Shirley & Warren F, Durban
Question: As Mayor of Cape Town and leader of the opposition Democratic Alliance, how can you help your party to win seats and power in other cities?
Helen Zille replies: In our attempts to establish multi-party democracy in the new South Africa, it is essential to win power wherever we can, so that we can demonstrate that our policies make a real difference to the lives of all the people. That is why it was so important to win Cape Town and several other local authorities (mostly in the Western Cape) in 2006. I think it is fair to say that most people believe we are doing a significantly better job (for all) than the previous administration. People can now compare progress and development under administrations led by the ANC on the one hand, and the DA on the other. That is a start.
Political parties measure their progress from election to election. We have two aims in the forthcoming general election: to safeguard the constitution by holding the ANC below a two-thirds majority nationally, and to win the Western Cape Province as a whole.
Our next major target will be the local government elections of 2011 (just over two years from now), when we aim to take power (either alone or through coalitions) in the major metropolitan areas, including Durban. We are making encouraging progress in this regard. For example, just yesterday (September 28, 2008), the Sunday Times reported the results of its latest opinion poll in its main front-page article entitled “New Shock for ANC”. The introductory paragraph of the report read as follows: “The ANC and DA are neck-and-neck in the polls among urban voters seven months before next year’s general election, a shock Sunday Times survey shows.”
If we achieve each aspect of our plan, step by step, and govern well where we are in power, we should be able to win power in other cities. It will require all our supporters to become involved, to register and vote, and to reach out with genuine care and empathy, to people from all communities.
From Mapitsi F L
Question: If you became President of South Africa how differently would you run the country compared with the present leadership?
Helen Zille replies: The key difference between the ANC and the DA can be summarised best in Afrikaans. I have not yet found a crisp English equivalent, and I think it is time to invent one!
The ANC stands for the Magstaat. The DA stands for the Regstaat. Everything else flows from that distinction. I will try to explain it as follows:
The Regstaat is based on Constitutionalism and the Rule of Just Law. In a Regstaat, the key role of the state is to protect and promote everyone’s rights, to limit the ruling party’s power, and hold it to account. People also respect and protect each other’s rights. They have a choice between competing policies, which they exercise at elections. This is the basis of the open, opportunity-driven society for all, which ensures sure and steady progress in a context of freedom and development.
The Magstaat in contrast is based on the notion of the “higher law of the Party”. Mr Jacob Zuma, ANC leader, has repeatedly expressed this approach by saying that “the ANC is more important than the Constitution.” In a Magstaat, power is centralised and monopolised by a small clique who equate their control with “liberation”. The instruments of the state (from the police to the courts) are seen as an extension of the ruling party, and abused to protect and advance the interests of the ruling clique and its closed circle of allies. This approach is the basis of the closed, patronage-driven society that South Africa is becoming under the ANC. This sets the scene for a society’s slow but steady decline.
This may sound very theoretical but everything else flows from the distinction between these two approaches. When I give public speeches and refer to the importance of the Constitution, people often say: “Why is the constitution so important? We need food and shelter?” Then I concede that you can’t eat the law, nor live in a constitution, but that you cannot have progress and development, food and housing, without a legal framework that functions well in the interests of all. That is why we have to protect our Constitution. It is the platform from which we work to secure all other rights, step by step.
If I were President of South Africa, my government would govern as a Regstaat. We would establish the basis for “the open, opportunity-driven society for all” as opposed to the “closed, patronage-driven society for a few”. Soon the difference would be apparent to everyone.
From Arthur B, Hastings, England
Question: What are your plans for Cape Town and your personal ambitions?
Helen Zille replies: We have devised comprehensive plans in every area of local governance, which we are implementing, step-by-step. I have described some of these initiatives in answering other questions. When one moves a little in the right direction each day, it amounts to a long distance, after a while.
My personal ambition is to see South Africa become a successful, economically viable democracy where my children and grandchildren can live as contributing, committed citizens, and where they are judged for their qualities as people, not their skin colour. One day, I would like to be able to look back and know (as the saying goes) that I did what I could, where I was, with what I had, to make South Africa that kind of country.
Helen Zille, Mayor of Cape Town and winner of the 2008 World Mayor Prize
As Mayor of Cape Town, South Africa’s legislative capital and leading tourist destination, Helen Zille has already overcome an aborted attempt by the provincial government to downgrade her office and an attempted coalition coup since her election in March 2006. Elected as leader of the opposition Democratic Alliance, with a background as a provincial and national legislator behind her, she was a finalist for South African Woman of the Year in 2003.
Zille’s role in public life began with a stint as political correspondent for the Rand Daily Mail, South Africa’s leading liberal newspaper during the apartheid era. While at the paper, she emerged as a leading anti-apartheid critic, famously exposing the circumstances behind Steve Biko’s death under police custody in 1977, which was claimed to have been as a result of self-inflicted wounds. She also made her name for herself at the height of apartheid as a member of the Black Sash white women’s resistance movement and as a peace activist in her adopted city of Cape Town. She then worked in public affairs as a public policy consultant and as director of communications for the University of Cape Town.
Not long after Zille’s election as mayor, a plan was floated by the ANC-led regional executive council to downgrade the city mayor’s post to a ceremonial role and the distribute the executive powers among the city council itself, with the need for more ‘inclusive’ governance given as the reason. The “Mugabe-style” plan led to inevitable outrage from both Zille herself and a number of organisations, though the impasse was avoided by level-headed negotiation (Zille advised her party at the Convention for a Democratic South Africa). More