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Her political opponents call her Godzilla. After just 11 weeks in office there has been nothing else but ‘fire and brimstone’ as the new mayor Helen Zille has taken over as the most powerful person in council politics in the ‘Mother City of South Africa’. She fought the extension of the former ANC council manager [Wallace Mgoqi’s] contract; issued a monitorium period of one week on the signing of contracts for the world cup stadium planning studies and has called ‘for a forensic investigation’ of the former ANC led council’s financial activities.

After enjoying morning tea with Helen and her husband Johan [he is a professor of sociology at UCT] at their modest home in Rosebank at the foot of the panoramic Table Mountain; it is easy to understand why many people would like to see her as the future leader of the official opposition. Highly attractive and oozing with charisma, this dynamic intelligent woman adopts a no-nonsense fair, firm and friendly approach to life. She doesn’t hesitate to give credit when it is due. As she glances across the pages of one of Cape Town’s periodicals, she praises a political opponent, the Eastern Cape Premier [Nomisa Balindlela] for purging the local government of corrupt and incompetent MECs.

This fiercely loyal passionate woman is deeply patriotic and as humble as they come. I met her after a Good Friday service on a beautiful autumn day with the ‘tablecloth’ cloaking the notorious Table Mountain. [Cape Town was recently voted as one of Britain’s most popular tourist destinations.] I watch in amazement as she walks down the cul-de-sac where they live picking up litter in the streets. Johan tells me that this is a regular occurrence with her. She sets the highest standards for herself in all aspects of her life and grimaces at any hint of corruption.

I set out to obtain her views on a number of issues.

The ANC’s spoiling tactics are already haunting the collation council. The former manager [Wallace Mgoqi] of Cape Town, contract was renewed two days before the DA took control of the council. The ANC’s major objective is to make your tenure ungovernable. 

The ANC believe that they have a God given right to rule at every level in SA. They believe that every loss is an injustice. They do not accept losing, and when they do they find it extremely difficult to accept a role in opposition. They are boycotting the portfolio committee meetings at this stage. However I do believe that they will come to their senses and internalise their opposition role.

I am more concerned about the power battles within the ANC in the Western Cape. Premier Ibrahim Rasool [Mbeki’s man] faces the threat of being dethroned by the Africanists led by Mcebisi Skwatshe
The DA pulled off a stunning victory in the Cape Town elections. More remarkable was the formulation of the coalition of minority parties. Great brinkmanship.

I was not involved in the formulation of the coalition. However I am extremely pleased that it was achievable. There is huge diversity in the coalition. Six small parties joined us in forming the multi-party government, from the Africa Muslim Party to the Christian Democrats.

You indicated in your election campaign that you wished to see Cape Town as the flagship city for service delivery. In lieu of the recent obstacles that you are facing it seems like you plans aren’t even going to get off the ground.

Our plans are on track, we are set to pass the budget at the end of May. There are attempts to derail us but we will try.

You face severe challenges in many areas. The problem of wealth disparity in Cape Town is no different to anywhere else in South Africa.
Our biggest concern is unemployment. We need sustained, job-creating growth to deal with it. Another issue is housing. There are about 200 000 families on a waiting list. The failure of service delivery and unemployment in the Eastern Cape has led to large-scale migration to Cape Town. Many of these people live in rented shacks or backyards. The government has allocated R350 million pa for housing subsidies in Cape Town. 

Divided up at R40 000 per family, we are building 9000 units per year. This is totally inadequate. In fact the waiting list is growing at 16000 per year.

The government needs to increase spending on housing. Either that or we must abandon the notion that the government must build a house for every needy family. We have to find alternative approaches to help people build their own structures. Trevor Manual made it quite clear that we have to find an approach, which is affordable and sustainable. He is right; no government anywhere in the world can build a house for any needy family, especially in the context of a needy family.

The answer must lie with the private sector.
We must find ways of making the market work for far more people. There is a large untapped sector of the population in Cape Town that are earning between R3000- R7000 per month. Many of these people are paying high rentals to live in other peoples’ backyards. These people have never been afforded the opportunity to own a home. That is the opportunity that we must make affordable. The government’s role is to provide land and service where people want to live. Then the banks must provide home loan products that are affordable and repayable over a long period of time.
There seems to be a strong feminine touch to world political leadership. There is speculation that in the near future the US the presidential elections will be fought between Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Clinton. Although there have been huge inroads with gender equalities in South Africa: The possibility of a women presiding over South Africa seems like an unlikely occurrence.
Yes, I can see it happening. It is entirely possible. I have a high regard for our Deputy President Phumaliza Mlambo-Ngcuka. She is a highly competent and intelligent woman. She has what it takes to be President.

The Zuma trial,
It is - common cause -that he had unprotected sex with a HIV positive woman. As the former head of Aids Council and Moral Regeneration Committee he has sent out all the wrong signals. If you want to know why South Africa is fighting a losing battle over the aids pandemic, take a look at our former Deputy President. He is the diagnosis of our failure.

The National Aids Hotline has been inundated with calls after Zuma stated that he took a shower after the alleged rape to reduce the risk of Aids. The Minister of Health, Manto Tshabalala-Msimang has accused the press of sensationalism and endangering the lives of young South Africans by publishing his sexual viewpoints.

Absolutely not, I believe in freedom of the press. The problem does not lie with the press, but in the fact that a person of Mr Zuma’s standing holds these views.

There is widespread speculation that rape charges are an ANC conspiracy. I am not discounting it. There is a succession battle going on. Politics can be a vicious place.

He would have been South Africa’s third post-apartheid president.

Many say that he is a loss to South African politics.

Zuma is a patriarchal tribalist. He claims to be a hero of the left. He is nothing of the sort.
The DA is a ‘pale male’ party. Tony Leon has failed to transform his party unlike the leader of the British Conservative Party, David Cameron. He has made no inroads into the Black electorate. He is a ‘lame duck’.

He has captured almost the entire Afrikaner vote [90%] and has made huge inroads into the coloured many Black areas. He is the right person to lead the DA.

By my calculations this remarkable women is in for a very tough time. Perhaps the Cape Town experience will turn out to be the much needed baptism of fire to modernize the DA; and who better to lead the party that a woman who has survived the tit -for- tat retaliatory Western Cape politics. She must make this multi-party coalition work, not only for her sake but the sake of South African politics. The ANC claim that she won’t last the winter. Cape Town experiences bleak Mediterranean weather -and that’s no reference to regular electricity blackouts from Koeberg nuclear station.

Whatever the outcome is during the floor ‘crossing period’ in September, the ANC better brace themselves for one heck of a battle!


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