DA Pandering To Economic Hit Men

Cape Times 12 August 2013
Glenn Ashton

Our city leadership under the governance of the Democratic Alliance (DA), have indicated clear intent to smother our hard-fought for inclusive, democratic governance system. They have instead prioritised a system of red carpets for business allies, under the auspices of a business friendly administration.

Worse yet, they take major decisions, such as the alienation of high potential agricultural land, without due process or consideration. The instruction for the DA caucus to vote en bloc for the alienation of the Phillipi Horticultural Area (PHA) was legally questionable.

Effectively, administrative decision was made under the guise of the executive demanding caucus loyalty. There was neither adequate discussion nor dissent despite many councillors expressing profound unease about this vote. Neither was there an iota of public participation prior to this decision.

The city now proposes to further gut democratic process by removing the final decision-making process on land use, rezoning and development rights. The suggestion to make planning the function of a mayor who increasingly exhibits the characteristics of a doctrinaire plutocrat, is nothing more than an unconstitutional abuse of power.

Our city governance is effectively being directed by a coterie of inexperienced, privileged, young white intellectuals, the mayor’s Strategic Policy Unit. This penthouse cabinet is poorly advising our mayor, along with the neo-liberal Councillor Bloor. Bloor’s economic foundations are obviously founded on the precepts of the Mont Pelerin Society, of which he openly professes membership. This institution is founded on a discredited neo-liberal, free market economic ideology, culpable for our 2008 economic crisis.

These young white elitists dictate an abominable economic and planning policy for our city. For one they clearly wish to remove any controls on development, first of which is public oversight. These economic hit men patently lack suitable planning or integrated environmental management expertise. Neither do they operate transparently. Who pays them and how much, one wonders?

The mayors Strategic Policy Unit plays the role, along with her increasingly bloated mayoral office, of providing ill-advised neo-liberal input to the office of a commissar mayor who insults her critics by providing unsupported defence for her decisions. The results are Wescape, the PHA and Princess Vlei. Her planning decisions are even more bizarre and less consultative than those of Minister Uys’s immediately before his losing control of provincial planning authority.

All of this flies in the face of our constitutional rights. Sections 1, 152 and 153 of the constitution each speak directly to public participation in governance, and particularly local government. Public participation does not mean pretending to listen, then ignoring the parts you don’t like.

We presently have a highly organised and motivated property development lobby, who together with this free market executive clique, seek to undermine democratic participation in local government, the most important tier of government.

As a result we have a city that does not work for us; it works for developers and the rich. It is not caring, it is not inclusive and it is not well-run for citizens, from a planning perspective. This is the true face of the modern Democratic Alliance; it is smothering our collective democratic rights under a red carpet for business and party political funders.

This is arguably the worst executive administration the city has had in the past half century, eclipsing even Mayor Mfeketo’s dubious regime.


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