Backstabbing, feuds and backroom deals: inside Cape Town's 2018 crisis

09 October 2019 - 14:39

It’s 2018 and Cape Town is wracked by its worst drought on record. The prospect of "Day Zero" – when the taps run dry – is driving citizens into a frenzy.

Then the ruling Democratic Alliance removes control of the water issue from Mayor Patricia de Lille. While politicians turn on each other, revealing deep-lying faultlines and new enmities, it raises a critical question: who will lead the Mother City through the crisis?

Against this fraught backdrop, author and academic Crispian Olver resolves to explore how the city of his childhood is run. He sets his sights in particular on the relationship between local politicians and property developers.

Interviewing numerous people – including many dropped from the city administration in often questionable circumstances – Olver uncovers a Pandora’s Box of backstabbing, infighting and backroom deals.

He explores dodgy property developments in the agriculturally sensitive area of Philippi, on the scenic West Coast and along the glorious – and lucrative – Atlantic Seaboard, delves into attempts to "hijack" civic associations, and exposes the close yet precarious relationship between the mayor and city hall’s "laptop boys". And in blistering detail he gets to grips with the political meltdown within the DA and the defection of De Lille to form her own party.

Crispian Olver has been a medical doctor, political leader, environmental activist and public servant. He joined Nelson Mandela’s office in 1994 as head of planning for the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) and went on to run the department of environmental affairs and tourism as director-general. He has had a lifelong interest in local government issues and in 2015 he took on the most challenging assignment of his career: heading up an intervention to clean up corruption in the Nelson Mandela Bay metro.