Q&A with Herman Mashaba
Johannesburg executive mayor Herman Mashaba has been accused of wearing a red beret. Chris Barron asked him...
How's your partnership with the EFF going?
Are they calling the shots?
People who say that disregard democracy. In 2016 the people of Johannesburg voted for a multiparty government. So they cannot expect me to operate on a basis of one-party dominance. I made it clear that whatever I do will reflect the policies of the parties that voted me into power. So I find it strange that when I listen to these parties, people say I'm at their mercy. I don't represent only one party. I was not elected by the DA to be the mayor. The DA only got 38% in council.
So you must please the EFF?
I listen to all the parties, but ultimately I'm the one who makes the decisions. And all the decisions I've made, whether they're based on inputs from the DA, EFF or COPE, as long as I think their input helps me to serve Johannesburg better ...
What about being forced to cut your tariff and rate increases?
If you look at what the EFF requested, it was a no-brainer for me to accommodate such a request. The impact on my overall budget was insignificant.
What will the impact be on service delivery?
Absolutely nothing. The only thing it did is reduce my surplus from R1.6-billion to R1.4-billion.
So were your increases too high?
Not really, because electricity and water tariffs are not determined by the City of Johannesburg. We added a 2% margin to the increases we were charged so that I could have money to deal with future repairs and maintenance.
What happens to that now?
They requested me to reduce my margin by 1%, that's all.
Weren't your increases supposed to be non-negotiable?
No, how can they be non-negotiable? That is why, when the EFF requested me to reduce the water tariffs by 1%, I immediately accepted.
The first time around they did not indicate what the problem was. They just said to me: "We're not happy with the tariffs." I said: "What are you not happy about?" So at the next meeting they gave me a proposal to reduce the water tariff by 1% and electricity by 0.3%. So then it didn't take me two minutes ...
They didn't leave you with any choice, did they?
What is choice?
Something you didn't have when they refused to vote for your budget?
What are negotiations all about? Is it not about negotiating in good faith? If someone gives you an invaluable contribution and you accept it, does it really mean you are weak? No, that is not what negotiation is about.
Why didn't you negotiate before writing the increases into your budget?
I did. The EFF decided at the last minute to come with these proposals. Fortunately, they were not anything material and that's why I accommodated them.
You were in a very difficult position, weren't you?
Tell me who's in a fortunate position. I can't afford to be arrogant. The ANC were arrogant and now they're sitting on the opposition benches...