Governing a major municipality in South Africa has to be somewhat of a labour of love. The challenge is immense, with issues of social harmony, alleviating poverty and unemployment, providing a sound foundation for education and prosperity through local and international business investment all very much dependant on a reliable infrastructure.
At the City of Tshwane, Councillor Kgosientso Ramokgopa was elected Executor Mayor in 2011, and is overseeing the next phase of development for a vibrant cosmopolitan region. It is a task he undertakes with relish:
“The city plays an important role in the economy of the country and we are an important hub for manufacturing business. We have a large number of prestigious brands located in the City and are regarded as the automotive city of the country,” he describes.
“Our second main driver is as an administrative centre – Tshwane is the capitol city and almost all of the national government departments are headquartered here. The city is also home to innovation and roughly 90 per cent all research and development in South Africa is conducted here by institutions such as Armscor, the Medical Research Council, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, the Human Sciences Research Council and educational institutions such as the University of South Africa and Tshwane University of Technology – all of which support our claims to be the research centre of the country.
“Our fourth key focus is on education: the city has a population of two million and has the highest level of education in the country, as the home of two internationally recognised tertiary institutions: the University of Pretoria, which is the crown jewel of Tshwane and currently home to about 33,000 resident students, as well as the University of South Africa (UNISA), the oldest and largest university in South Africa with more than 100,000 students. We also have the Medical University of South Africa here.”
In addition, the Mayor, himself an avid sports fan, says that Tshwane is the home venue for a number of the country’s major sporting brands; “Most recently we helped to host the 2010 Soccer World Cup, but we also played a part in the 1995 Rugby World Cup, Cricket World Cup and All Africa Games.
“The city has a number of major sporting facilities including the Supersport Park Cricket Stadium in Centurion, Loftus Versveldt, home of the Blue Bulls, the High Performance Centre at the University of Pretoria and Pilditch athletics stadium in Pretoria West. We also have two Premiership football clubs, Sundowns and Supersport United.
“I see sport as a primary contributor to the culture of the country and our will to succeed and we are looking to support children to aspire to sports. We are very proud that two of South Africa’s recent Olympic gold medallists hail from Tshwane.”
The City of Tshwane was officially established on 5 December 2000 when 13 former city councils and town councils amalgamated under an executive mayoral system. In 2007, the City of Tshwane approved a plan to implement alternative service delivery, which saw it being divided into five regions. This was to strengthen service delivery and ensure coordination. After the merger with Metsweding in 2011, Tshwane became the third-largest city in the world, after New York and Tokyo/Yokohama, in terms of land area.
Despite the success, Mayor Ramokgopa says that there is still a long way to go to deliver the social and economic parity his government strives for: “We cover the largest land area of any municipality (some 2,432 square miles) and have a population of just under two and a half million – and there is considerable disparity from the highly developed and modernised city centre to the rural areas where infrastructure is very poor, water and sanitation are issues along with technology and public transport is less safe or reliable.
“It is important that we ensure people are able to receive equal levels of service and education and one of our tasks is to try to resolve endemic problems of financial sustainability by diversifying our revenue base.”
That diversity comes in a number of shapes and in the last year for example, the City’s relationship with BMW has further strengthened. The production of the new BMW 3 series recently commenced in Rosslyn where BMW has succeeded in implementing production processes that dramatically reduce non-recyclable waste and the generation of waste, wastewater, emissions, noise and vibration.
Further investment totalling R1 310 billion have been made in the city by Tata Motors (R114 million), Aurecon (R496 million) and Nampak (R700 million), while Mayor Ramokgopa has also been busy building strong overseas business and diplomatic relationships:
“When I came into office last year one of the first tasks I took on was to visit Washington DC – which of course has a similar standing in the US to the one Tshwane has here (as a capital city). We want to engage in mutually beneficial discussions regarding both administration and trade and we can collaborate in areas of ideas and share experiences. Later this year I will be travelling to Asia and China and then on to Qatar – overseas investment has benefitted our infrastructure programmes greatly.”
Thus far the department has undertaken investment attraction missions to Washington DC, New York and San Francisco in the USA and South Korea. Partnership agreements were signed to advance economic relations, and the City also participated in several investment facilitation programmes that were organised by the Gauteng Economic Development Agency and the Department of Trade and Industry.
Much of this work very much brings the private sector into the fold on public sector contracts – something which in the past has drawn suspicion from the public – however Mayor Ramokgopa says that this relationship is much more accepted today: “Thanks to private sector help we have achieved much and the public can see that it is not just all about profits but solving problems.”
One area that private business can play a big role in is technology and the mayor sees this having a number of positive effects: “Improving the penetration of IT and smart technologies will help to educate people but it will also help us to communicate better with our constituents. We have also entered private company partnerships to help deliver two power stations.”
An integrated public transport network is another goal currently being worked on by the government although Mayor Ramokgopa says this will take time: “I think we are very far from where we want to be but an integrated network will help to improve disadvantaged areas – we are getting there slowly and have benefitted from the allocation of grants.
“Our main focus is on improving lives, fighting poverty and unemployment and over the next two years our priorities will be to improve electricity supply and the introduction of more pre-paid cards which enable us to enforce credit control.
“We also want to consolidate our position as an administration centre and the construction of our 80,000 metre square Convention Centre will help to achieve this as once completed, it will be the largest in Africa. We also want to increase technology and operate in a more efficient and environmentally-friendly way that reduces carbon emissions. Improved housing will also see us eliminate 180,000 sheds in the city and we want each and every household to have access to electricity, clean water and sanitation in the next three years.”
The City’s Growth and Development strategy, aims to accelerate growth, contribute towards the provincial economic growth target of 9 per cent, reduce unemployment by 50 per cent by 2014; create an environment that will ensure a more balanced sharing of benefits between the first and second economies and address gender focused issues in the economy by dealing with the inequalities and mainstreaming women, youth and the disabled; and develop a monitoring mechanism to evaluate projects.
In line with these efforts, Tshwane’s 5-Year plan of action is to develop Tshwane into a leading city where residents can enjoy a good quality of life. The five-year programme focuses on the challenges and opportunities faced by the city and have five strategic objectives: to provide access to quality basic services and infrastructure throughout the city; Accelerate shared and higher local economic growth and development; to fight poverty and ensure clean, healthy, safe, secure and sustainable communities; to foster participatory democracy and apply the Batho Pele principles through a caring, accessible and accountable service; and to ensure good governance and financial viability, building institutional capacity and optimising transformation in order to execute the Municipality’s mandate.
During an economic downturn this may seem over-ambitious; however the Mayor says that Tshwane has been more resilient than other areas of South Africa thanks to its diverse range of industries that contribute to the local economy. Diversity is a word with more than one meaning of course, and Mayor Ramokgopa says that he wants to be able to look back with pride on a multi-cultural society that is gelling:
We hope to launch our 2055 vision by the end of this year,” he says, “we want to fight poverty and unemployment and strengthen the city’s case to be the strategic capital city of choice going forwards. We also want to exploit our excellent education centres and create an environment for learning for all. This will all be broken down into five year segments which look at launch, consolidation and acceleration phases.
“My biggest hope however is to look back at a cosmopolitan city made up of all colours – and to see them all working together as South Africans,” he concludes.