Herman Mashaba. Picture: RUSSELL ROBERTS

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FM Edition:

There are three critical figures in the running of any city — the mayor, the finance member of the mayoral committee and the city manager.

For the first time in 21 years of local government, the City of Johannesburg is not being run by the ANC.

The DA’s newly elected mayor, Black Like Me founder Herman Mashaba, has announced his team to run SA’s economic hub.

Concerns have been raised over whether Mashaba, a political novice, is up to the task of running the city. But he says he is not a politician and does not wish to be one. "I want to operate as a public servant and for me to execute my responsibilities as a public servant I have to be honest and practical and deal with issues from that perspective," he says.

The new executive mayor intends to professionalise the municipality, using his business experience, and will surround himself with experts and people with local government experience.

"In 1994 when our new democracy was born, it was led by one of the greatest statesman the world has ever seen, Nelson Mandela, who had never run a government in his life," Mashaba says.

"However, all of us were not born yesterday, myself in particular ... bringing experience of life, bringing experience of social activism, bringing experience of 35 years of running a business. An assignment like this you don’t take on on your own. One gift I believe I have is to put groups of like-minded people around me to ensure we execute any assignment."

Mashaba was born in Hammanskraal, north of Pretoria, and was raised by his single mother.

In 1980, in his second year at the University of the North, his dream of studying was shattered when the institution was shut down because of political unrest. Despite the university later reopening, he did not return.

A few months later he got his first job at a Spar in Pretoria, earning R175 a month. Seven months later he resigned, for a job paying R100 more. This was at Motani Industries, where he worked for 23 months. He started saving and bought a car, then resigned and began selling various products from his car boot. Mashaba did not want to spend his life working for someone else.

Mashaba partnered with three "like-minded" people — Joseph Molwantwa, Walter Dube and Johan Kriel — and raised money to start Black Like Me in 1985. The four men were equal partners.

Seven months ago, Mashaba started his political career when the DA announced he would be the party’s mayoral candidate for Johannesburg, less than two years after he announced that he had joined the party.

His campaign got off to a rocky start with statements which were construed as anti-poor and anti-black. These included comments that he did not believe in race-based policies such as black economic empowerment and that poor people were more susceptible to corruption because they did not know how to handle money.

It is not clear yet what Mashaba’s 100-day plan for Jo’burg will entail but he is adamant that job creation, to help the 800,000 unemployed in the city, and the rooting out of corruption are on the top of his list.

The team surrounding him will be the key to achieving his goals. While the full team is still taking shape, he announced his mayoral committee last Friday, on his 57th birthday .

Heading the city’s finances is Rabelani Dagada, who will in essence be the finance minister of the biggest city in Africa, home of the richest square mile on the continent.

He threw his name in the ring when the DA was deciding who should be its Jo’burg mayoral candidate, but lost out to Mashaba.

Dagada is a development economist, information technologist and knowledge management specialist, with a PhD in information systems. He is not new to politics.

He has been a proportional representative (PR) councillor in the City of Johannesburg since 2014 and served on three portfolio committees — finance, economic development and corporate & shared services.

Dagada will be responsible for Johannesburg’s R45.3bn operating budget and R9.5bn capital budget, 71% of which is funded by loans and internal funds. In May this year the debt burden stood at R15bn. The portfolio is a key position but he is seen as more of a policy specialist than a numbers man.

This could be counter-balanced should the DA’s chief whip in the Gauteng legislature, Mike Moriarty, be appointed city manager. He is seen as a front runner.

Moriarty has been the DA’s Gauteng spokesman on finance and holds a degree in civil engineering and an honours in politics.

He is expected to take over from Trevor Fowler, who has reportedly said he is not available to stay on .

Mashaba says the city will not be an employer but will create an environment which enables people to find employment by working with the private sector, particularly small business.

"I’m asking small business, please come and make money in our city. I love businesses that make money because when businesses make money they employ people," he says. "When businesses make money they pay taxes and now that is where we come in as government."

Mashaba says his government will ensure that when taxes are collected, money will be protected and not a cent will be stolen. The money will be used to provide basic services to communities.

"I strongly believe in partnership with the private sector. With a clean, accountable and responsible government it is highly possible that we can bring down the high level of unemployment that we see in our city."

Mashaba and his new mayoral committee will be meeting heads of departments to learn how the city works. Only after that will he be able to put together a "practical" plan for Johannesburg.

He says his 10-member mayoral committee is made up of professionals including lawyers, doctors and professors, who would help him run the metro.

He says members were selected because of their skill and knowledge, not because they were his close friends, and it was not "cadre deployment".

Mashaba will be conducting a skills audit starting with his own office, making sure people are qualified to do their jobs. He says this is not an exercise of purging people but rather ensuring that there were "fit for purpose" arrangements.

The DA now governs half of the country’s metros — Cape Town, Johannesburg, Tshwane and Nelson Mandela Bay.

The DA has had the challenge of putting together more inclusive mayoral committees as it has long faced criticism regarding lack of diversity in its appointments.

The Tshwane council seems to be heading in the same direction. A list of new executive mayor Solly Msimanga’s committee of mostly white and male executives was leaked. However, it has been changed to ensure it is more diverse.

Nelson Mandela Bay mayor Athol Trollip has been criticised for his predominantly white, male executive. The ANC in the province has accused the DA of "erasing transformation work" in the metro.

"In the metro, we worry transformative policies that we have set up and we were implementing will not be a priority for the DA, will not form part of the programmes of Trollip and his white-dominated males," says provincial secretary Oscar Mabuyane.

All three of the executive committees in the new DA metros include members of smaller opposition parties which helped the DA clinch victory in these areas.