With the local elections in Johannesburg less than month away; The Battle for Joburg took place last night at Wits’ Great Hall. The Battle for Joburg is one of two debates in The Wits Great debate among representatives from the ANC, DA and EFF.

The debate took place from 19:00-20:00 and was televised on eNCA as well as Wits’ Facebook page. The ANC was represented by Geoffrey Makhubo. Herman Mashaba represented the DA and the EFF’s representative was Floyd Shivambu.

The debate began with the host, eNCA’s Siki Mgabadeli, asking questions. Mgabadeli noted how Johannesburg is possibly the biggest price because of its contribution to the economy. Mgabadeli first addressed Makhubo and asked him to list 3 things that the ANC has done well and 3 things that they should have done better. Makhubo acknowledged the introduction of BTR and free wifi hotspots in the city as two of the ANC’s achievements. He also recognized that the ANC should have done better in terms of the development of informal settlements.

Following Makhubo’s response, Mgabadeli asked Mashaba about his opinion of Makhubo’s explanation of the ANC’s successes and failures. Mashaba said that “it’s actually quite interesting and unfortunate for the ANC to claim any victory.” He went on to note how the issue of unemployment has risen by 3 or 4% since 2011 when the ANC took over Johannesburg. He further said that job creation is the DA’s first priority. When asked how the DA would create jobs, Mashaba said that the DA will work with small businesses. He explained that “we believe the only way we are going to create jobs in this city is to encourage entrepreneurs.”

Shivambu also acknowledged that unemployment in Johannesburg is a problem. He said that the EFF is “going to reignite industry and make sure that Johannesburg becomes the productive capital of South Africa.” At which point the crowd become rowdy when an EFF member and SASCO member had an altercation. Adam Habib, Wits Vice-Chancellor, got involved and a short break was taken so that the room could calm down and so that people could hear what was being said. When the debate resumed, Mgabadeli started discussing the issue of unemployment in the context of people migrating to Johannesburg in search of jobs.

Mgabadeli asked Makhubo what the ANC had done about unemployment. Makhubo mentioned that the ANC has programs targeted at the unemployed youth and that they have been working with industry. He explained that “government alone cannot create jobs so we have partnered up with” companies in the private sector. Mgabadeli then asked why the ANC had not been able to resolve the issue of unemployment. Makhubo’s response was that 10 000 people come into Johannesburg every month and that “they come looking for gold and gold is gone.”

When DA representative, Mashaba and EFF representative, Shivambu were given a chance to voice their views on this issue, both were critical of the unemployment rate in Johannesburg. Mashaba said that recent statistics had shown that 870 000 people are unemployed in Johannesburg. In addition Mashaba mentioned that since the start of the year 750 jobs have been lost every day. Shivambu expressed that “even before the global economic crisis South Africa’s unemployment was way above 30%. It’s a structural problem which is caused by liberalism that defines the ANC government.”

After the discussion facilitated by Mgabadeli, the panel of experts was given the chance to ask three questions. The first question was “what the parties propose to do to ensure that local government is closer to the people…and that the people have a better sense of who is governing them?” Makhubo responded by mentioning that the ANC had already introduced community-based planning “so we are already doing it, we are not planning to do it.” Mashaba said that the DA would introduce a professional civil service, audit senior positions and have mobile vans to better understand what people need. Shivambu mentioned that the EFF would create a ward-based budget and that “the people who are going to decide what are priority interventions that are going to be dealt with are the people in the community.”

The second question was “what are each of your parties going to do to ensure that in the wake of the election results all of your supporters accept the results and those that won work together to provide a benefit in government for everybody?” The ANC’s response was that they are politically tolerant while the DA said that they would accept what people vote for. The EFF said that they would like to deploy more police in the communities. Shivambu’s reason was that “when we take over, these people of the ANC are going to burn the townships.”

The last question asked by the panel of experts was based on promises that the constitution makes such as access to basic services like housing and water. The representatives were asked “how would your governments ensure that the promise of the constitution is a lived experience for many millions of South Africans?” Makhubo said that human settlements must be created “so that there can be access to water, access to electricity and access to basic amenities.” Mashaba explained that “when the DA takes over, the biggest percentage of our spending infrastructure will go into those communities.” Shivambu mentioned how the ANC had not done enough to bridge the gap of spatial planning implemented during Apartheid. He went on to say that “the EFF is going to take decisive action to provide free basic housing, including in the city.”

After the panel of experts asked their questions, the opportunity to ask the representatives questions was opened to the audience. One of the questions asked by a Wits student was “how are you [EFF] going to prevent corruption within this economic hub that you are trying to establish in Gauteng?” Shivambu responded by saying that “the most important component of how we deal with corruption is to abolish tenders.”

The debate was concluded with each representative making a two minute closing statement as to why they are the best person for the job. Makhubo ended his closing statement by saying that “the people of Johannesburg must vote for the ANC because it’s the only party that can better the lives of the people.” Mashaba acknowledged that voters have an important decision to make. He said “the ANC’s failures are there for everyone to see.” He went on to caution people by telling “the voters of Johannesburg please don’t treat Diarrhea with laxative, you will be committing suicide.” In Shivambu’s closing statement, he said that the EFF “has illustrated here that we understand what we are talking about. We understand the special challenges that are confronting Johannesburg.”

After the Battle for Joburg being a rather heated debate, one wonders what will happened next week July 21 when the political parties battle it out for Tshwane.

Written by: Jody Davison