– By John Battersby

Cape Town could become a template for reversing poverty, creating jobs and reviving ailing service delivery throughout the country, Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis told the SA Chamber UK. Hill-Lewis was speaking to the SA Chamber UK at a lunchtime meeting at the law firm Simmons & Simmons LLP in the City of London during a visit to the US and UK to share his vision for the Mother City. On the same day, January 23, he also delivered a lecture at the London School of Economics entitled: City of Hope – Lessons from Cape Town for the future of South Africa and African cities.

Hill-Lewis shared his vision with the Chamber to create a governance model in Cape Town which would have as its central objective improving the quality of life for those living in poverty and the unemployed. “That is the very point of government and of politics,” he said. “I define politics as the attainment of government power for the achieving social progress,” he said in the LSE lecture. Hill-Lewis’ strategy in managing the City of Cape Town has already paid huge dividends. Cape Town had a record tourist season in 2023 with 317 000 visitors.

The City has significantly reduced the frequency of rolling blackouts due to the energy crisis by promoting solar energy and other renewables; by buying in excess power from private power producers; and it has a plan to launch a voluntary incentive program to reduce consumption.
Crime rates have been cut by a highly- augment the under-resourced national police. High-tech drones are radically improving crime detection and cutting access times to the scene of the crime. Tourism was creating jobs and there were more tech start-ups in Cape Town than in Lagos and Nairobi combined. The Mayor said he was testing the limits of devolution under a Constitution which provides for a degree of federalism the powers of which have never been tested. He said he believed in ‘functional federalism’ which meant that governance was most effective and most accountable when delivered at the local level.

Cape Town is returning to a merit-based state and is promoting the notion of a professional civil service, restoring pride in being a civil servant.
The financial administration and provision of services in Cape Town has moved way ahead of other major cities where service provision is collapsing, and poverty and unemployment are on the rise while life expectancy is falling and protests endemic. Hill-Lewis said failing government services were the result of ‘cadre deployment’ and had drastically reduced the capacity of government to deliver.

The success in the strategy Cape Town has adopted had led to an influx of people from other parts of the country in the hope of jobs and a better life. “We know that we have to invest much faster for growth in the future,” Hill-Lewis said. Adding that R120bn would be spent on infrastructure by the end of the decade. “The golden thread in all that we do is to get people into work opportunities and out of poverty.”

Cape Town should demonstrate to all South Africans not to lower their sights. South Africa had defied pessimistic media views in the past and would do so again. It was important that the country developed a clearly defined national goal and did not accept that the current downward trajectory was inevitable. “South Africa is trying to overcome the legacy of a painful past and seeks to build a truly prosperous future for all who live in it.” Hill-Lewis said that the task he had undertaken was “extremely difficult” but he was optimistic that it could be achieved. “It’s a very meaningful and exciting thing I am trying to do so that is why I am enjoying it so much.” But he added that the single goal of lifting people out of poverty in time remained central to his strategy. “We will judge our progress by the poorest in our city,” he said.

“We envisage a better future for them and their families…we believe it is still possible to achieve that vision. Cape Town is bucking the national trend. The future lies in showing there is another path for South Africa.” Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis of Cape Town and SACC member Jaco Botha, Sable International trained metropolitan police force of 3500 with sharpened investigative powers to Geordin Hill-Lewis is a member of the Democratic Alliance.

His full lecture at the LSE can be found on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gSdPHcDNwmU

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