Tshwane mayor and leading the capital

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

By More Matshediso 

Being a mayor is a difficult job. And to be a mayor of South Africa’s capital city and the single largest metropolitan municipality in the country is even tougher. It comes with responsibility and many complex issues to deal with on a daily basis.

But for the City of Tshwane Executive Mayor Kgosientso Ramokgopa, it’s all in a day’s work.

He tells SAnews, in this special feature, that tough decisions, criticism and high expectations are all part of the job of leading a big municipality with more than two million residents.

As South Africans prepare to choose new councillors in the upcoming local government elections, Ramokgopa reflects on the work done by the municipality under his leadership since taking over in 2010.

When he took over as mayor, Ramokgopa set himself a goal to position Tshwane as the “capital of excellence”. He had sought to do this by leading the introduction of a state-of-the-art public transport system in the form of the Bus Transit System, refurbishing roads, renaming streets and public buildings and recently the introduction of free Wi-Fi at several public spaces.

“I regard myself as a democratic leader who is always open to innovative ideas that can help enhance the quality of life for all South Africans,” he says.

“I believe in the shared vision of the future. I dream of a society where we can all live in peace along the different races, ethnic groups, sexual orientation, beliefs and creed.”

Ramokgopa says Tshwane has no choice but to maintain high standards if it’s to up its status as the capital city of South Africa.

As a dynamic city, home to three major universities and a string of top schools and colleges, Ramogkopa says the decision to introduce free broadband in certain public spaces within the city was a deliberate one.

As a result, the project scored double accolades at Africa Technology Award, recently.

According to a research conducted by BMI-TechKnowledge, Tshwane is one of the leading metros providing free Wi-Fi to residents. There are currently 776 TshWi-Fi zones in the city with a total 261 sites activated within the last 12 months alone.

Ramokgopa says the project promotes social inclusion, stimulates inclusive growth, and supports learning through the accessibility of digital education material.

“Citizens are now able to tele-commute and study afterhours near their places of residence, as opposed to having to find transport to traditional places of study.

“Independent research indicates that, on average, every ten percent increase in broadband penetration increases a country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita by 1.28 percent, increases employment by 0.28 percent and facilitates the growth of SMMEs,” says the mayor.

He says the city is now one big internet hotspot earning the brand name “TshWi-Fi” which characterizes the city’s full digital offering.

Over a million devices access free internet

Since the free broadband project inception in 2013, over 1.4 million unique devices have accessed the TshWi-Fi network, representing a 328 percentage increase since March 2015, a monthly growth rate of 15 percent on average.

The initial daily cap was 250MB and speeds of 1MB per second. Today, the daily cap has been increased by 100 percent to 500MB and the average speeds are 15 times faster.

Another successful project for the city is the Tshepo 10 000, which is in its second year and has significantly increased the participation of youth in the economy. Ramokgopa says the project has created 508 jobs through technical opportunities.

The best three Tshepo 10 000 co-operatives, as measured by the value contracts awarded are Legae Housing and Projects Primary Co-operative, Ikageng Primary Co-operative, and Leseding 10K Primary Co-operative.

“This is a job creation initiative to empower 10 000 youths with entrepreneurial skills, and it continues to grow in leaps and bounds. To date, more than R380 million worth of contracts were awarded to the beneficiaries of Tshepo 10 000,” he says.

There’s also the Ga-Rankuwa Eco-Furniture factory, which was launched in 2014. It has produced in excess of 49 000 school desks valued in excess of R30.9 million.

Tshwane also scooped the Extended Public Works Awards for its Youth Job-Creation and Greening Projects.

“The programme has created 30 280 new work opportunities in the 2013/14 financial year and a target of 40 000 opportunities for the 2014/15 financial year work opportunities.

“In both 2014 and 2015, the city won the best project within the metropolitan and district/local category for its youth and greening project “Vat Alles”.

City attracts investments

While innovation is important in ensuring that young people have access to technology and skills, it has not been the number one money spinner for the city.

Ramogkopa says the main sectors of investment have been real estate, automotive and other manufacturing sectors.

Within the last five years, Tshwane has recorded a Rand-value in investment of approximately R12.5 billion, exceeding the five-year target by R3.5 billion.

“The City approved a Development Investment Incentives Policy in May 2015 which aims to attract catalytic investments into the capital.

“The role of the automotive industry is notable as the transport industry in Tshwane grew from R23.9 billion in 2010 to R28.9 billion in 2015.”

Challenges

But there are also challenges.

Ramokgopa says slow and non-payment of municipal bills by residents remains one of the major challenges for the city. He warns that non-payment impacts on the city’s ability to roll out services and maintain key infrastructure.

During 2015, the City initiated the Mmogo Re A Gola programme which means “together we grow”. It is aimed at enhancing the importance of revenue collection within the City to ensure its ability to deliver ongoing services to residents.

“As a result, some of our successes include a cumulative increase in payment levels of R400 million in the first half of the financial year, a total of R850 million being collected through the newly-established Revenue Recovery and Credit Control Centre, and a net reduction in our debtors book in excess of R400 million by the end of March 2016, amongst other tangible successes,” says Ramokgopa.

Not just your usual politician

The mayor of the capital city of South Africa has a number of qualifications under his belt, including a Master’s Degree in Business Leadership from the University of South Africa (Unisa). He is currently completing a PhD in Public Affairs through the University of Pretoria.

Before joining the City of Tshwane, Ramokgopa served as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Metropolitan Trading Company, which is an entity of the City of Johannesburg. He was also Johannesburg Market CEO, and a Deputy Chairperson of the Board of Trade and Investment in Limpopo.

He grew interest in politics while studying towards his first Degree, BSc Civil Engineering, at the University of Durban Westville. He was part of the South African Student Congress (SASCO) leadership and served in the leadership of African National Congress Youth League.

He later served as ANC Ward 51 Councillor between 2000 and 2005. He is currently Chairperson of the ANC in the Tshwane Region. - SAnews.gov.za

 

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