Herman Mashaba: my vision for smartening up SA's biggest city

10 April 2016 - 02:01 By HERMAN MASHABA

We'll put Joburg's city administration to work to better its citizens' lies, writes Herman Mashaba. What is the golden thread that runs through the story of every successful and prosperous city in the world? All enjoy dedicated servant leaders. All share a widely accepted and progressive vision built in collaboration with the mayor, the councillors and the local community. All have an exemplary and impartial public service.Professional civil servants ensure their cities are run with brisk efficiency; no city has pivoted from poverty to prosperity without this. Strong policies and visions are implemented without the political interference that compromises their integrity.A patronage-based metro coupled with poor oversight fosters a public service culture that discourages strong performance.story_article_left1We see this in the ANC-led City of Johannesburg, where demotivated public servants are unable to achieve the goals they are capable of. The political leaders lead for their own benefit and are unable to capitalise on new initiatives such as "smart cities".Whoever emerges as the mayor of South Africa's largest city this year will also play a major role in turning the entire nation's fortunes around.The absence of a smart city strategy in the ANC government's policy-making seems akin to climbing up a descending escalator.What is a smart city?A smart city is a city equipped with basic infrastructure that provides an acceptable quality of life to all its residents. It provides a sustainable environment through smart interventions such as monitoring water and energy supplies, treatment of waste, and intelligent urban planning and transport management systems. As Nobel prize winner Al Gore pointed out, these green solutions generate brand-new entrepreneurial opportunities and jobs.The president of the world's largest economy, Barack Obama, recently launched a new smart city initiative. Our Brics peer, India, quickly capitalised on this. It has partnered with Bloomberg Philanthropies to identify 100 smart cities that will receive central government funding to be matched by the private sector.The Internet of Things is being linked to the development of smart cities and involves machine-to-machine communication. Thought leaders believe this marriage of the physical and virtual worlds could enable local government to deliver more efficient services and increase responsiveness to citizens.Accurate metrics can help metros ensure that services in poor communities are as good as those in prosperous neighbourhoods.story_article_right2Imagine water mains packed with clusters of smart sensors that can alert the city engineers to leaks or blockages.Imagine lampposts that detect light levels and save energy by turning themselves off.Imagine algorithms that detect if residents are trying to make illegal electrical connections that endanger lives or, perhaps, help the Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department locate stolen goods.Finally, the Internet of Things has a role to play in uprooting corruption in the public service by shining a light into the darkest places and actively identifying corrupt acts.Under the DA, corruption will be declared public enemy No1. Only 6% of acts of corruption in the Joburg metro are ever prosecuted under the ANC. Utilising "predictive policing" technology that has been pioneered in cities such as Boston, the mayor's office will fast-track the gathering of evidence of wrongdoing, so that it can be handed over to the criminal justice system without fear or favour.Imagine a mayor's office that actively seeks out corrupt officials, investigates and hands them over - rather than protecting and redeploying them.At present far too many of our Johannesburg residents live in the most desperate poverty, with little hope for opportunity and change. As the DA mayoral candidate for Johannesburg, if elected I will bring this opportunity and change through simple interventions.We will upgrade informal settlements through access to dignified sanitation. There will be functioning sewerage infrastructure, along with proper access to water and electricity.block_quotes_start I'll pull in the private sector to bring their experience and ideas in order to instil innovation in the civil service block_quotes_endResidents who have waited with hope for the past 20 years will no longer wait in vain. Where the DA governs, the official numbers show we already deliver the highest access to water, sanitation and electricity, and I am determined to do the same in Johannesburg.We will ensure that the basket of free services is up with the best in South Africa, matching Cape Town's, and will be provided equally.We will also connect aspirant entrepreneurs to microfinance and loans. Home ownership for the poor will be facilitated. As the work of Peruvian economist Hernando de Soto has long proven, formalising property rights in informal settlements is pivotal to help poor residents build savings and become small-business owners. Yet today, our people are denied title deeds by bureaucracy and uncaring ANC governments. The DA will unlock this.story_article_left3Large supply-chain and procurement tenders will be carved up into a set of smaller contracts. Many more SMEs can then bid for them successfully. This will reverse the egregious effects of "tenderpreneurs", who are closely aligned to the ANC. I want all small businesses and entrepreneurs to do business with the government, and with each other.I'll pull in the private sector to bring their experience and ideas in order to instil innovation in the civil service and to help grow budding entrepreneurs.We also want to push the envelope of the metro competencies. We'll identify city-owned properties that entrepreneurs can adapt to become top-performing schools and technical colleges of excellence for our poorest residents. And we will make unused city property available at the lowest annual rental to entrepreneurs with good plans.On day one, I'll unveil a new Service with Pride vision because we want city officials to be proud of being in service.The mayoral committee will operate a project management system, based on international best practice, which gives the government executive instant access to information on the progress of every major project. In the DA-led Cape Town, the system helped triple the rate of infrastructure investment through capital projects. And I want to do the same in Johannesburg.Together, the voters, political servants and public officials have the power to lay the foundations of the smartest and most efficient city government in Africa. Johannesburg is the heart of our economy. It must be resuscitated if our country and all who live in it are to achieve true freedom.Mashaba is the DA mayoral candidate for Johannesburg

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