Pretoria – Democratic Alliance (DA) Tshwane mayoral candidate Solly Msimanga decried the state of the Pretoria CBD, which he said had become a pale shadow of its former self under African National Congress (ANC) administration.
“We want to come in and start cleaning the city when we take over. We want to have restaurants in the CBD. Now, if I ask you if you know of any restaurant in the city center where we can go and have our meeting or to enjoy ourselves, you can’t,” Msimanga told reporters in Pretoria on Tuesday.
“We want the city to be a live-in city, to be a working city. We want to see some properties in the city being turned around into lofts that people can come and buy-in. Investors should know that they can come and invest and they can get their worth,” he said.
Msimanga‚ the DA’s Gauteng chairperson and member of the Gauteng Provincial Legislature, was elected last weekend by the party as its mayoral candidate for Tshwane. He shrugged off competition from councillors Brandon Topham and Bronwyn Engelbrecht for the candidature.
The 35-year-old criticised several road barricades that could be seen around Pretoria central, some of which have been there for years.
“You cannot continue with projects of such a scale without putting them into stages. All these big projects that are taking place in the CBD, it is a blanket approach. You must pay people per stage, which means you can monitor the progress per stage. Currently, the whole CBD has barriers, potholes and trenches that are unnecessarily there. If it was done in stages, that is how you hold the people contracted (construction companies) to account, paying them once they complete a stage,” said Msimanga.
Previously, motorists and businesses in Pretoria central have complained about the extensive roadworks, some of which began in 2013. Last year, the Tshwane Chamber of Commerce said roadworks in the city centre had caused many businesses to shrink their operations, resulting in substantial job losses.
Regarding economic growth, particularly in the vast Pretoria townships like Mamelodi and Atteridgeville, Msimanga said there is a great need to skill communities, encourage self-sustenance and revitalise industries which are lying dormant in their areas.
“I laughed when I went to Ekangala, (a township east of Pretoria) where almost 70 percent of the people there are unemployed, but there are talks of building a new mall. Where are the people going to get the money to buy from this mall? Create the basics. Create an environment that business can invest in. Create an environment where small entrepreneurs can come out of that community. How do you do that when you are not upskilling people?” he asked.
“You can talk of what they call ‘township industrialists’, which is a big word for new tender systems and that is not sustainable. We want people to be self-sustainable. That can only happen if you give people the skills and you give them the opportunity to interlink with big businesses. The big businesses should give people skills in the areas they operate in,” said Msimanga.
During the 2011 local government elections, the DA won 39 percent of the vote in Tshwane, up from 9 percent in the previous poll. In the same year, the ANC garnered 56 percent of the vote.
In the lead up to the 2016 local government elections, Msimanga said: “We are targeting the big five metros, which are Tshwane or Pretoria, Johannesburg, Tlokwe and obviously retaining the city of Cape Town and Nelson Mandela Bay. We are going after those five but some smaller municipalities as well.”
Asked what he thought about what DA critics call “use of blacks” to woo black voters, Msimanga responded: “Initially I used to take it as an insult but now I find it more of a joke. If I was in the ANC, would I be asked the same questions?”