City of Johannesburg (CoJ) executive mayor Geoff Makhubo has said the administration was focusing on responding to the worrying state of Johannesburg’s finances, the collapse of good governance and the debilitating effects of Covid-19 on the economy.
"We have re-committed ourselves to creating an enabling environment wherein we rebuild Johannesburg’s economy by focusing on growing the economy to create employment, as well as reducing poverty and inequality (back to basics)," he said during his State of the City 2021 address on May 4.
The administration would focus on arresting the decline of urban areas, improving public environments, enhancing infrastructure and promoting equitable access to economic opportunities, he added.
"Taking stock of the long-term opportunities and challenges facing infrastructure worldwide, we propose a set of policy recommendations that aim to enhance infrastructure's contribution to economic and social development in the years to come, especially as the world enters the post-Covid period," said Makhubo.
Infrastructure, such as transportation, power, water and telecoms systems underpins economic activity and catalyses growth and development.
"We will drive short-term high-impact interventions that are aligned to community needs, including tarring roads, maintaining stormwater and public lighting infrastructure, ensure access routes have public lighting and complete conceptual or design work for public open space management."
However, gains from infrastructure are only fully realised when projects generate tangible public benefits. The gains from reliably providing quality and accelerated services are fully recognised by this administration, he said.
"Water supply is crucial. While we acknowledge that there are areas that continue to experience water challenges, we commit ourselves to responding to this with long-term solutions."
Further, City Power is exploring the feasibility of alternative energy sources to diversify its energy mix, which has the potential to address some of the electricity supply constraints, as well as ensure that all communities are provided with reliable and continuous energy supply to improve quality of life and contribute positively to economic development, he added.
"We continue to engage with [State-owned power utility] Eskom to find a lasting solution to the electricity supply crisis in Soweto and surrounding areas. Similarly, we must mobilise communities to curb illegal connections, which plunge them into darkness."
Waste removal entity Pikitup has to shift its focus to the waste economy as it expands services to areas not previously serviced, the mayor noted.
"The quality of our roads has become most worrisome. The Johannesburg Roads Agency (JRA), and Johannesburg Parks and Zoo (JPZ) are hard at work as they continue efforts to improve our road infrastructure. We are happy to announce that the private sector has joined in our efforts to maintain our roads with the aim to reclaim our status as a world class African city," said Makhubo.
"To realise the vision of a sustainable, economically viable town, we need to develop a long-term plan that highlights engineering, social and economic infrastructure requirements," he said.
Makhubo made reference to active citizenry and dutiful public servants as crucial parts of reinvigorating the CoJ.
"The services we provide are not merely services, but, indeed, mechanisms to improve the overall wellness of residents. The psychology of service delivery tells us that when we ensure uninterrupted flowing of water, for instance, we not only improve sanitation, but we also provide peace of mind."
"We need to bridge the gap between what we deliver and how it is experienced by residents. Our interventions, therefore, need to take into account the new post-recovery era wherein we ensure the uninterrupted flow of accelerated service delivery.
"We have agreed that communities are owners of the municipality; they are, therefore, our most important stakeholder and, for us as the closest sphere of the government to our people, it is important that our efforts derive a tangible value-add for them."
"As the crisis unfolds, the impact on the city’s bottom line will be driven not only by overall economic conditions but specifically the parts of the economy where revenue is generated," Makhubo stated.
The city continues to increase its support to informal entrepreneurs with the view to developing productive township economies and promote local manufacturing, as well as the revitalisation of industrial parks in partnership with the National Treasury and the Gauteng provincial government, he added.
Entrepreneurs and small, medium-sized and microenterprises are the backbone of any economy and require effective support for their success. Against this backdrop, the city aims to establish itself as the entrepreneurial city of the future that offers concrete solutions to pressing issues such as unemployment, he said.
The CoJ has launched two additional opportunity centres, namely the Joburg Market Opportunity Centre and the Eldorado Park Opportunity Centre. It now has ten operational opportunity centres where members of the community, especially emerging small businesses across all sectors, can walk in for assistance and advice on entrepreneurship and business support issues.
Further, to reduce apartheid spatial policy, which has proved difficult to eradicate and has, in fact, become more entrenched since its abolition, human settlements are critical.
The CoJ must ensure efficient land use and advancing spatial transformation, as well as commit to densification in targeted nodes and inclusionary housing models. It must also expand the supply and range of housing, including affordable units and serviced sites, to meet the needs of low-, moderate- and middle-income, as well as special needs individuals.
"We endeavour to work with the Department of Human Settlements to urgently implement the memorandum of understanding on resolving the Alexandra housing challenges."
Managing spatial inequality means that the city must develop a logical and implementable strategy for how livelihoods of the poor will be supported spatially. This includes indicating where affordable housing, employment opportunities and economic opportunities will be located with respect to services and existing employment opportunities.
This requirement should not be confined to human settlements only, but requires that plans also pay attention to the location and agglomeration of economic uses with a specific focus on how these will benefit the poor. This focus does not exclude the needs of the formal economy for economic growth, for promotion of formal sector employment and economic development, but is allied to it, he said.