SPEECH BY THE CITY’S EXECUTIVE MAYOR, PATRICIA DE LILLE, AT THE INAUGURAL COUNCIL MEETING
Note to editors: the following speech was delivered by City of Cape Town Executive Mayor, Patricia de Lille, today, 11 August 2016, at the inaugural Council meeting of the new term of office.
Premier of the Western Cape, Helen Zille
Members of the Provincial Cabinet
Leader of the opposition, Mmusi Maimane
Members of ParliamentMembers of the Provincial Legislature
Archbishop Emeritus Ndungane
City Manager of Cape Town, Achmat Ebrahim
Ladies and gentlemen.
Good morning, goeie môre, molweni, as-salaam alaikum, shalom.
It’s good to be back at this podium.
I have been humbled by the election result and the endorsement of this government by the people of Cape Town.
Public service and duty have been the watchwords of my life and my career.
It is an honour to continue to serve in this great progressive cause of consolidating democracy and building a better future for everyone.
I would like to say thank you to the people of Cape Town, yet again, baie dankie, enkosi kakhulu, shukran.
I will not let the trust you have placed in us be squandered.
This democratic enterprise that we are engaged in is too precious for that.
It is even more gratifying to be part of a historic moment nationwide.
This election has defined the beginning of a new era of our country’s history, the time when we start to mature as a democracy.
The old certainties and truths that people have clung to are no more.
To adapt a phrase from the late Steve Jobs, these elections have been a disruptive force.
In South Africa, the arrogance of power has been brought low by the will of the people – and it is glorious.
But as ever at times of great change, some are unprepared.
The small contradictions that have built up over time shift suddenly and dramatically into a new paradigm.
And those who cling to the old forms of analysis and understanding are left behind in change’s wake.
We are witnessing the sheer power of the democratic will, which sometimes expresses itself in ways that are unexpected as the spirit of the age moves in different directions.
As a new government, we must try to comprehend and respond to this new will.
Achieving a two-thirds majority is a remarkable feeling.
But it brings with it even greater responsibility.
My colleagues in my party, the Democratic Alliance, will know that this has been a long campaign, lasting around eight months.
It has involved great personal sacrifice and long hours.
Colleagues, it was worth it.
I would like to thank all councillors, activists, public representatives, and volunteers for all that you have done.
And I would like to thank the teams led by James Selfe and Paul Boughey, and those led by Han-Marie Marshall Van Zyl, Mireille Wenger, and Brett Herron for their dedication.
And of course, I would like to thank our party’s leadership, and Mmusi Maimane, for this great moment.
Mmusi, you told me to ‘vat alles’ concerning the votes in the Western Cape. We almost did but we had to leave something to the opposition.
But while the election campaign may be the apex of our political endeavour, those votes were not just won in the past eight months.
They were won day by day over the past 10 years of DA government in Cape Town.
They were won by the work of leaders like Tony Leon and my mayoral predecessors, Helen Zille and Dan Plato, and the councillors, staff members and officials who worked tirelessly to build this government into what it is today.
They were won by the policies and programmes we will continue and enhance in order to keep making progress.
We will continue to spend 67% of our budget on the poor.
We will continue to redress the imbalances of the past and to replace concrete roads, retrofit ceilings in government housing, and give title deeds and property ownership to people.
We will continue to provide sanitation and basic services to informal settlements.
We will continue to provide the best level of services in the country to all residents.
And we will continue to attract business and investment, creating jobs and growth.
Indeed, this democratic mandate and the moment of change that it has brought, require us all to consider our roles and what tools we will need for the future.
I have already spoken about the humility and responsibility required of us as a government.
But we are not the only beings in this political ecosystem.
A two-thirds majority requires a credible opposition to monitor the exercise of power and the headiness of an overwhelming majority.
To be sure, wise leadership is needed.
And so I would like to appeal to the opposition today to work constructively in the new Council.
We may be political adversaries but we need not be enemies.
You represent a third of the electorate.
And while the government will serve the interests of everyone, regardless of their vote, we can best do that if every constituency has a credible voice in this Council.
This election has shown us that the voters have rejected the politics of division, race-baiting, and cheap gimmicks.
They want progress and they want practical plans for the future.
I pledged to make this great city even greater.
We can truly do that if we have a functioning democracy and a functioning council where we debate policies, not stereotypes.
Where we clash on principle, and not prejudice.
And where we disagree with dignity, and not like children.
The people have spoken and will continue to voice their opinions, which is good and right.
And while we communicate with them directly, as envisioned by the public engagement process of local government, our residents also rely on information sources in the media.
The media have a critical role to play in the political order.
They must report on the issues of the day and present a divergence of opinion objectively.
This is the public role of a free press and it is part of what makes a democracy, characterised by freedom of expression, a place for the contestation of ideas.
But this ideal position does not give the press a blank cheque.
They have to hold up their end of the bargain and understand what local government actually does in terms of the Constitution.
To those members of the media who try to paint a picture of a racially divided city, this is what we say: please stop because we will not let racists speak for us.
It takes a broad cross-section of race, gender, age, class, and sexual orientation to reach a two-thirds majority.
Be the critical but responsible voice we need you to be.
Help us by providing a platform to interrogate and engage with government programmes.
And as much as you hold us to account, we will also hold you to account.
Because everyone in this ecosystem has a role to play in keeping it healthy.
And this ecosystem needs to thrive because the government of Cape Town is going to evolve over the next five years.
For the past 10 months, a team led by the City Manager, Achmat Ebrahim, and the Director in my office, Craig Kesson, have been working on a plan to give life to my vision of becoming one of the leading city governments of the 21st century.
This plan will propose a re-ordering of government that builds on our strengths and the lessons we have learned to focus on service delivery for our residents and becoming a truly high-performing, strategy-led organisation.
This organisation will be driven by data and evidence, focusing relentlessly on our customers: the people of Cape Town.
It will mark a new era for metro government in South Africa and an entrenchment of our reputation as the leading city government in the country – one that has achieved global recognition with almost 90 international awards in the past five years, that has assumed leadership roles in international organisations like the C40, and has delivered successive clean audits.
And what is more, it will help us deliver the full expression of our democratic mandate, the manifesto, which the people of this city voted for, built on the five pillars: the opportunity city, the safe city, the caring city, the inclusive city, and the well-run city.
In conclusion, let me say that I and the team that I lead are ready for the task at hand.
I would like to thank the team in my office, led by Craig Kesson, for their professional excellence; the administration, led by Achmat Ebrahim; and all 27 000 employees whose dedication and commitment have helped make this city what it is today.
I thank my family, for their love and support, and my late mother, Winnie Lindt, for everything.
The days before us will require hard work and sacrifice.
And they start now. This evening I will attend my first official event opening the Johannesburg Stock Exchange’s first office in Cape Town – because there are never really any days off as a public representative.
And five years go by in the blink of an eye.
As we work to make this great city even greater, let’s make each day count.
Let us continue to make progress possible, together.
Laat ons vooruitgang moointlik maak, tesame.
Senza inkqubela yenzeke, Sisonke.
Thank you very much.