Here is a view of a prominent Cape Town resident who wishes to stay anonymous. He writes about the lack of democracy in the city.
“Money is the beast that eats democracy.
As far as inappropriate development and the failure of the city to take the concerns of residents into account goes, it is clear that the public participation process as practised by the DA led City of Cape Town is profoundly flawed, if not totally broken.
It is interesting to note that when the DA won the city they promised to do away with the role of executive mayor as instituted by the ANC. Of course this never happened. In fact the DA reinforced the position of the executive mayor and surrounded the mayor with a coterie of ideologically slanted “advisors” none of whom had sufficient experience in large scale municipal governance. This included the mayors own so called Strategic Policy unit, headed by young white intellectuals from highly privileged and distinctly cerebral and politically ungrounded backgrounds. Aided and abetted by elected ideologues such as Cllr Bloor, this unit and the upper echelons of the DA went on to forge close alliances with what was then known as the Western Cape Property Development Forum (WCPDF), which essentially represented the business interests of property developers in the metropole and surrounding areas. In other words a close relationship was established between developers and the office of the executive mayor and her advisors and coterie (and in all likelihood the DA funding mechanisms), all in a manner that has built-in deniability.
What arose out of this was the repositioning of interests from the WCPDF into the development advisory forum under the new development guidelines known as SPLUMA. So essentially what we have is a free market driven ideology informing the political heads of the city and through them the officials, of what ought to and must be done as far as development agendas go. So much for independent decision making.
It is fascinating that the DA fails to realise the irony when it claims that the Guptas have instituted state capture through their relationship with the ANC and specifically with Zuma and his cabinet, when in fact the DA has done exactly the same thing, but in my opinion with rather less subtlety than the ANC.
One could put this all down to the serious lacuna around the issue (the elephant in the room!) of funding of political parties in SA. Unfortunately the rot lies somewhat deeper. What we see in South Africa is only a reflection of the broader global experience, where increasingly close ties are established between corporate and political players, the so-called corporate-political nexus. This is the beast that dominates politics in the global north and which has powerful influence in nations in of the south where either the Washington consensus/ Neoliberal ideology holds sway, as it does here, particularly in the politically liberal-oriented DA territory.
The result of this is a centralised decision making entity where a simulacrum of democratic process is followed – supposed public participation – but the pre-ordained and corporate desired outcome is arrived at in the long run. The only caveat to this is that this can be overturned through legal process; as the DA constantly says, if you don’t like it take us to court. So unless you have serious financial backing you cannot play this game.
This may all seem a bit cynical but I am afraid it is the dominant reality of how things play out in local development politics. What it is amounts to not just state capture but essentially amounts to the fundamental corruption of the democratic system by the market under the auspices of both liberal, neo-liberal, and in the case of people like Cllr Bloor, pursuit of ideological frameworks as set out by the discredited Austrian School of Economic thinking that he is so proud to uphold.
The cost of this perversion of democratic ideals is that local democracy is as good as dead, that local desires are over-ridden by the executive as has happened in Noordhoek and elsewhere, and as look set to happen in Philippi and Maidens Cove. Any action that does take place is no better than lip service.
Also if you recall the WesCape saga (the mega-suburb north of Blouberg proposed by property developers), this is still a reality that could come into play if the governments dreams of another nuclear power station in the Koeberg area are halted. Watch this space.
The ANC may have been corrupt with the arms deal and some other issues but neither is the DA is any position to point fingers in the way that it governs the City of Cape Town. These are all known knowns.
What to be done to halt this? Expose it wherever possible. Soon before the DA finalised their decision to approve the PHA development (the one still being contested) there were reports of Patricia De Lille having dinner and other meetings with the company involved in the whole process, which would on the face of it appear inappropriate. And where did the INL reporter move to before filing anything on that story? To become media spokesperson for Patricia De Lille. ‘Nuff said.”
Its time to speak out to protect our democracy!