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Put the right policies in place, or watch South Africa die, says Herman Mashaba

29 July 2020 PSG
Herman Mashaba – Entrepreneur, Author, Politician and a former Mayor of Johannesburg

Herman Mashaba – Entrepreneur, Author, Politician and a former Mayor of Johannesburg

Dan Hugo, Chief Executive for Distribution at PSG

Dan Hugo, Chief Executive for Distribution at PSG

Speaking at PSG’s Think Big webinar series today, Herman Mashaba – entrepreneur, author, politician and a former Mayor of Johannesburg – described his experiences in office, his encounters with endemic corruption and maladministration, and expressed his deep-seated desire for change.

The webinar was hosted by Dan Hugo, PSG’s Chief Executive for Distribution, who described Mashaba as a “roll-up-your-sleeves” type of person. “Instead of being an armchair critic, when Herman sees a problem, he tries to do something about it.”

Mashaba’s three-year tenure as Mayor is described in a new book, The Accidental Mayor¸ written by his former chief of staff Michael Beaumont. Partly an exposé on the ANC, it also highlights the infighting and factionalism of the DA.

Determined to form a pro-poor government in the municipality, Mashaba said he quickly experienced resistance from the DA. He remembers being told that the poor hadn’t voted them in, the “white elite” had. He was asked why he was spending money on pro-poor projects in the townships and settlements, when the grass on the verges in white neighbourhoods needed cutting?

“How can we save society if we exclude whole aspects of it? How can we unseat the ANC and attract black voters if we only focus our efforts on white areas,” Mashaba asked?

The ANC also made its feelings about Mashaba clear when they filed a Motion of no Confidence against him in August of 2019. Despite their disagreements with the Mayor, the DA stood behind him against the ANC’s attack and launched a petition to keep him in office with the hashtag #HandsOffMashaba.

However, the frustrations were becoming too much for Mashaba and crippling his ability to execute his vision, he said. He eventually decided to quit the DA and resign his mayoral seat in November 2019.

In Mashaba’s view, the ruling party is likely to destroy the country and said, “the sooner we can unseat the ANC the better.”

He believes the key to change in South Africa lies in the just under 19 million South Africans who didn’t vote. “Those who didn’t vote are those who can’t be bought with a T-shirt or a food parcel. We need to convince these voters that staying away from voting is actually giving the ruling party free rein.”

At the same time, he said, we need a free market economy; small businesses; and a government committed to the rule of law. To achieve this, Mashaba is the driving force behind a new political party, The People’s Dialogue, set to officially launch in August.

Asked if it wasn’t extremely difficult to start a new party in South Africa and have it gain traction, Mashaba replied with a quote from his father, who said, “life isn’t easy today, and it’s not going to get easier tomorrow, or in 1000 years. God has given us brains to use to navigate the challenges. If you believe you can change your life, then you can. But it’s going to be tough.”

In the concluding minutes of the webinar, Mashaba turned to discuss the economy, saying that more than anything this is what kept him up at night. “South Africa prior to COVID-19 was already on a stretcher, about to be wheeled into the ICU. Now it’s like a patient already in an ICU, but without any doctors or surgeons.” He likened COVID-19 to a Sunday school picnic compared to the impact the pandemic is still to have on the economy. “Without the right people and policies in place, our chances of survival are slim to say the least.”

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