This is a super risky blog post because — oh my word — you’re not supposed to publicly talk about what you really think about politicians. Why the hell not? It’s a democracy!
I tweeted about a “fantasy league” local election — what if we could create our own party by picking and choosing from our favourite politicians, and getting them to lead the change we want to see?
(Edit: after some feedback I think it’s important to highlight the difference between a “fantasy” and a “fantasy league”. In a fantasy league, I have to choose from existing players on the field, playing the game as it is more or less currently defined. I’ve taken some liberties here, but have not gone into full fantasy mode about running the City).
So, here’s mine!
(This was much harder than I had thought it would be — we desperately need fresh candidates — here’s hoping for some surprises this local election!)
Ok, but first — don’t we vote for parties, not people, because of policy?
In local elections, of course, we vote for individuals in our wards, and parties for council, and this all gets added together for the proportional representation that then gets used to elect a Mayor, who chooses their MayCo. In terms of Party Policies, at a local government level, regardless of party, most of what gets done is implementation of National Acts and Policy, with a little bit of interpretation around the edges locally, and a lot of strength of values, leadership and governance. I’d probably insist they start by implementing National policy like SPLUMA, and borrow a lot from GOOD when it comes to local interpretation.
And yes I am borrowing people from other spheres of government, which makes it complicated.
And yes this MayCo has a different structure.
But this is my fantasy league after all!
So, here goes:
Mayor: This was a toss up between Brett Herron and Alan Winde (DA), but I’m going with Alan because I think he’s been a good Premier through the Covid crisis, and, secondly, we really really need City and WCG relations to improve. On this matter, his long-standing relationships with WCG and track-record as a bridge builder might do it. Plus Brett in the other role is the kicker.
Deputy Mayor (aka: New governance models) Phumzile van Damme (DA). What’s this you say? The bracketed title is a very specific mandate — in my fantasy league the Deputy Mayor is not merely deputising to the Mayor, but leading a transition management process to the next era of local government. Ok, this probably warrants a blog post (or thesis) all of its own, but the current model of local government is expired. Someone needs to lead the charge on transformation here — digital transformation as well as fundamentally new approaches to governing hybrid systems without being financially dependent on deriving revenue from governing centralised systems. I’m putting Phumzile as our leading woman here given the foresight she shows on digital transformation, misinformation, hybrid governance etc. I’ve moved the “traditional” finance function of the deputy to corporate services.
Utilities, climate change & resource resilience: Belinda Scott (ANC). Ok, so technically she’s left politics. But humour the fantasy part of this here. She has years of experience in provincial and local government and was generally well-regarded across party lines. A condition I have here is that Mark Roundtree (GOOD) must be her policy officer . To be honest I’d like to poach a few women from the practitioner space for this role, but I think I am already taking some creative liberty here… (And, yes, I am combining energy, water and waste — i.e all the major revenue non-rates services into one MayCo member — not because I think they need to be one Directorate, they don’t — but because I think the EDs can do a perfectly fine job of running them day to day, and have the oversight and support of a single MayCo member who is more focused on the bigger picture of just transitions in the space of water, energy & waste management).
Transport and urban development: (yes, they’re all back together, and property is here too now so we can start to make the best use of it) Brett Herron (GOOD). Hopefully no further explanation required. Carry on where you left off please.
Social resilience: (formerly social development and safety & security): Muhammad Khalid Sayed (ANC)— he has a social sciences background, a focus on the youth, an emphasis on democratic participation. I’ll be honest — I’m taking a risk as of all the league members he’s one I’ve never engaged with personally, and have followed for the shortest period of time. Tell me if I’ve got this wrong, and if there’s someone better suited for the position? Recommended to be strongly supported by the City’s Resilience team, not only the City’s existing social development (which needs massive strengthening), safety & security and disaster risk management functions.
Health services, libraries, parks and community facilities: Helen Jacobs (DA). She’s a people’s Councillor. Can we do something innovative here and match her with all the youngest ward councillors that make it in (lets hope there are many!), and have some sort of programme that teaches them how to do it, through the lens of community services and facilities? That would be great!
Corporate services and finance: Parks Tau (ANC). He was the Mayor of Joburg, and now in Cooperative Governance — key for a lot of the big changes that need to happen in managing the ever shifting (unfunded) mandates of local government. Yes, yes yes — I heard, Joburg have potholes! Running Joburg is inordinately complex — all those agencies to delivery everything, with their own boards and interests and channels for dysfunction and corruption. He did a pretty good job under the circumstances, and is globally recognised for having his finger on the pulse of what City governments should be doing strategically to be ready for tomorrow’s challenges.
Urban Management: Xolane Sotashe (ANC). Xolane has been a member of the CCT council for twenty years(!). I’ve personally been grilled by him (in a way I appreciated) about who would benefit from projects and processes. He’s sat on various local area economic development committees and the relevant area based management and urban management portfolio committees. Let’s see what he’d do if he were no longer the “opposition voice” asking questions but actually leading the charge? He’d need to be paired with a really strong ED, as this directorate has a tough and sometimes confusing mandate, that despite some really good ideas and passionate people, hasn’t yet found its groove. It’s not a simple take over of a running ship…
Functions you might think are missing?
- Economic development — I believe this can sit transversally, with the Mayor acting as the ultimate “face”, and ward councillors empowered at a precinct level. Transversal actions can have at least three layers — one that is about connecting the Cape Town economy globally (investment promotion — this in any case should sit closely connected to coms, marketing and international relations at a strategic level), one that is about development and investment facilitation and must work closely with the transport and urban development directorate to ensure it is aligned with the long-term plan for the City and third with social resilience, and the third that leverages community facilities via a place-based development initiatives (project-driven, initiated via ward structures and/or precinct planning processes).
- A night mayor? I’m big on culture, and not just that think there is a whole aspect of city life — positive, negative and mundane, that occurs after dark. Some cities have a night mayor… I think that’s kind of cool… Maybe its an honourable focus of some of the ward councillors?
Oh, and there are clearly a lot of parties who didn’t get a match member! The lot of smaller locally relevant parties, who deserve a place through their ward representatives — I see you. And of course, the EFF. I prefer them in their oppositional role, calling this bunch out when they, inevitably, falter.
And, of course, I’m choosing from politicians. If I could throw in practitioners and activists who I wish would run, this would look quite different!
And yes, I am often very vocally critically of the DA, but here I’ve gone and given the “top” jobs to two DA members! Ha! Isn’t it funny how institutions can behave differently as the sum of the parts of individuals within them?
What else? Agree, disagree? How will my league fail?
I hope this post is taken as the fun thought experiment it is intended to be — a no offence is taken by anyone indirectly implicated.