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Mayor’s Newsletter for the week ending 9 February 2024

Ald Leon van Wyk, Executive Mayor of George

In preparation for the National and Provincial Elections to be held later this year, the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) held its second voter registration weekend on 3 and 4 February 2024 to enable citizens to register for these important elections. We are grateful that many hundreds of voters arrived to register. Many of these are citizens who have recently relocated to George from other parts of South Africa.

There appears to be a noticeable and welcoming shift among citizens towards an appreciation that the voters can and will determine the policy direction and pathway to success for our country. The almost daily reports and experiences of the ongoing crumbling of state capacity and infrastructure should be a clear signal to all citizens to pay greater attention to the crisis that we are facing.

In a recent article in Business Day, Jabulani Sikhakhane (a previous spokesperson of the National Treasury) lamented that the City of Johannesburg is collapsing with neither a plan nor any intent to save it. He wrote that SA’s largest city has now become a symbol of the country’s economic stagnation and decline. The city’s administrative and technical capacity to manage its affairs has been declining markedly for at least the past decade. The political will is also lacking. Infrastructure projects cannot be implemented without this capacity as well as political will.

Ricardo Hausmann, the director of Harvard’s Growth Lab (who has written the Growth with Inclusion report on SA) has said in a recent interview that other countries in the world have also experienced collapses in their electricity systems, but in each case, the private sector was permitted to provide solutions which they did within 3-5 years. South Africa is the only country where the government has impeded solutions for 15 years.

Our municipality is increasingly dealing on an ongoing basis with blockages and hurdles to finding solutions to a whole range of issues that negatively impact our efforts to plan and implement decisions to foster George’s growth and improvements for the well-being of citizens. Earlier this week, our municipal manager spoke at a high-level municipal finance conference in Johannesburg where she outlined impediments to our efforts to provide alternative energy for George.

The semi-grants to the Western Cape have recognised the efforts being undertaken by many municipalities in the province to strive for good service delivery in contrast to their experiences elsewhere. The work being undertaken by our municipal officials and councillors in their governance role is therefore critical as we chart our way forward to clear the legislative and red tape hurdles delaying our ability to implement progress.

It is refreshing to note that councillors regularly report back on situations where they believe that our response times in addressing complaints and faults are not at the expected standard. This dedication and desire to ensure that high standards are maintained is admirable.

However, it is important too for citizens to recognise the difference between constantly striving for excellence and what happens when that will, and determination do not exist (and we thank all those citizens who express their appreciation). It is this message that needs to be understood and shared by voters if we are to return the country to policies that encourage and drive economic growth, employment, and an improvement in the quality of life.

Alderman Leon van Wyk
Executive Mayor of George