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Profile: Mpho Franklyn Parks Tau - Executive Mayor Print E-mail
Bio of the City of Johannesburg Executive Mayor Cllr. Mpho Parks Tau

First names: Mpho Parks
Middle name: Franklyn
Last name: Tau

Birth place: Soweto in Johannesburg, South Africa
Birthday: June 6, 1970
Nationality: South African

Education: Holds a Post Graduate Diploma in Public Management from Regenesys. He is currently enrolled with the University of London for a master’s degree in Public Policy and Management studies.

Occupation: City of Johannesburg Executive Mayor

Work history: Student Representative Council President at Pace Commercial College, 1980s; Soweto Youth Congress President, 1989; Urban Development Committee of the Southern Local Metropolitan Council Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson, 1996; Africa National Congress Johannesburg Regional Secretary, Regional Deputy Chairperson, Regional Chairperson respectively, 1994-present; Johannesburg Member of Mayoral Committee (MMC) Developmental Planning, Transportation and Environment respectively, 2000-2003; Johannesburg MMC of Finance and Economic Development, 2003-2011; City of Johannesburg Executive Mayor, 2011 – present.

Political Party Membership: African National Congress (ANC)

Leadership Roles: Chairperson of the South African Local Government Association in Gauteng
Chairperson of the South African Cities Network
Deputy Chair of the UN Special Advisory Committee on Safer Cities
Member of the C40 Climate Change Network Steering Committee
Co-President of Metropolis

Career: Politician

Office Address: Metropolitan Centre, 158 Loveday Street, Braamfontein, Johannesburg, 2000

Personal: Tau lives in Winchester Hills, southern Johannesburg, with his wife Pilisiwe Twala-Tau and their five dependents


South African political activist Mpho "Parks" Tau is the second democratically elected City of Johannesburg Executive Mayor – the city with the highest population size in the Republic of South Africa at 4.8 million. While coming off age during apartheid, a brutal system of racial segregation enforced from 1949 to 1994 by South Africa's ruling white minority sparked Tau’s interest into politics at a young age of 14. This saw him grow and take up leadership roles in anti-apartheid activism organizations such as the Congress of South African Students (Cosas) and the Soweto Youth Congress. After his early exposure to grassroots organizing and activism, Tau's political career gained momentum in the early 1980’s when he was elected President of the Soweto Youth Congress. He was from thereon elected to increasingly challenging roles in youth organizations. He took on more responsibility as he joined his political icons at the forefront of South Africa’s liberation struggle until he was eventually elected the City of Johannesburg's Executive Mayor in 2011.

Born in Orlando West, one of the neighborhoods in Soweto on June 6, 1970, Tau and his three brothers and a sister grew up at the heart of the struggle against apartheid. "It was during my childhood that it was instilled in me that I must always take responsibility for my actions.

“My father would remind me that 'everything you do, will always come back to you’. These are the principles that stayed with me since then and I still apply to date,” Tau says.

Soweto, or the "South-Western Township", is a densely populated urban area of predominantly black South Africans located on the southern perimeter of what was once Johannesburg's city line. Now officially a part of the city, Soweto was the site of many altercations between police and anti-apartheid demonstrators, including the Soweto Uprising, which began on June 16, 1976, after apartheid police fired on demonstrating black students.

Tau entered his teenage years at the height of the apartheid unrest and liberation struggle. At a tender age of fourteen, he joined Cosas, and became engaged in student activism for the first time. In the 1980s, he was detained several times during national states of emergency -- periods of strict restrictions on anti-apartheid activities -- which were declared by the government of the time that was eager to regain control of the population.

Tau was later elected President of the Student Representative Council at Pace Commercial College. There he met college Vice President, Dr. Mbuyiseni Oswald Mtshali, who encouraged him and other Pace students to voice their political beliefs. In 1989, at the age of 19, Tau was elected President of the Soweto Youth Congress, and later he became a leading member of its subsequent incarnation, the African National Congress Youth League.

Political Career Path in Johannesburg

"The liberation struggle and a quest for social justice influenced my decision to join politics making my transition from struggle activism to politics seamless,” Tau says.

After apartheid came to an end in 1994 and South Africa's liberation party, the Africa National Congress, took power, Tau continued to take on roles enabling him to help build a united and equitable South Africa. He was 24 years old when he was elected regional secretary of the Africa National Congress in Johannesburg in the same year. He also went on to also serve on the Southern Metropolitan Local Council's Urban Development Committee after he was elected in 1996.

In 2000, following the first democratic elections to take place at city level, Tau was appointed as a Member of the Mayoral Committee of Johannesburg, overseeing efforts in the portfolios of Developmental Planning, Transportation, and Environment from 2000 to 2003 respectively, as well as the Finance and Economic Development portfolio between 2003 and 2011.

The Johannesburg population is more than five million people and growing. Challenges confronted by the city include the upgrading of ageing infrastructure such as roads and storm water drainage systems. Johannesburg is also faced with addressing a high rate of youth unemployment, as well as bringing new business and industry into its city center, which is currently undergoing a developmental renewal after some of its privately owned buildings were abandoned – making way for building hijackings and other associated crimes.

When Tau was elected the City of Johannesburg Executive Mayor in 2011, he succeeded former Executive Mayor, Amos Masondo. Masondo, who Tau often describes as having had and been "a great influence and a role model in my political life”. After taking office, Tau drew attention for his youthful looks and slight build, his intellect and plainspoken speeches given without the aid of notes, and his early diligent use of social media in conveying his message to the city's inhabitants.

Crafted Vision for Johannesburg

Tau defines a livable city as "a place that creates opportunities for everybody who wants to access the city, its cultural, social and economic amenities”. “It’s a city that is accessible from a transportation point of view, but also a city that you can interact with -- the ability to get into the street, be a part of the city and interact with the people,” he says.

Tau's vision for an equitable and livable Johannesburg, which is in line with the Joburg 2040 Growth and Development Strategy (2040 GDS) is exemplified by the city’s "Corridors of Freedom" programme. In a recent interview with Nick Michell from Cities Today, Tau outlined the objectives of this plan, stating; "in the long term, Johannesburg citizens will live closer to their workplace and be able to work, stay and play without having to use private motorised transport”.

“Safe, affordable and convenient buses, cycling and pedestrian activity are set to replace the carbon burning private car. For far too long, the city has remained divided by our past and divided between rich and poor, white and black, townships and suburbs.
“Black people in the main continue to live far from their workplaces and have to travel long distances to reach places of work, schools, and leisure. Corridors of Freedom looks to remove these boundaries to link jobs to people and people to jobs," says Tau.

Since taking office, Tau has focused on developmental local government, which is designed to unlock opportunities to empower Johannesburg citizens – especially the youth - to lead sustainable lives. This is through entrepreneurship initiatives and partnerships between the city and its people to create jobs, while improving service delivery and realising the goal of minimising food insecurity. Programmes such as the Corridors of Freedom, Blue Economy, Jozi@Work and Smart City are some of the key initiatives designed to aid this developmental government approach.

This is as the spatial form of the city, infrastructure in particular, to extend services to communities that do not have access, as well as the recapitalisation of aging infrastructure, remain some of the city’s ongoing challenges - alongside high levels of socio-economic disparities and poverty.

Tau believes that it is through interventions such as the city’s Corridors of Freedom, among others captured in the 2040 GDS, that the lives of Johannesburg citizens are being transformed. “Our investment of R100 billion over 10 years into strategic infrastructure and our food security programmes are just a few of the city’s initiatives to make Johannesburg a better city to live in,” he says.

Tau has also helped steward an expanding Rea Vaya bus rapid transit system, the last phase of which will include adding biogas and diesel-run buses to the city’s fleet. This is in line with his positioning as a vocal proponent of building a more environmentally sustainable infrastructure for the city and creating awareness about conservation.

Tau has also committed to cutting the city's carbon emissions by 1.6 million tons come 2020. To that end, the city is looking to diversify its energy supply and develop energy efficiency programs to help incentivise residents to upgrade their own buildings in order to better conserve resources.

Tau's commitment to the environment, and awareness of the modern city's need to adapt to a new climate reality, garnered international attention when he and the City of Johannesburg hosted the C40 Mayors Summit in February 2014. This international network of city mayors who are committed to taking action on climate change saw these leaders host the summit for the first time on the African continent – after Johannesburg took the lead in taking up membership.

Fighting greed and corruption has also been an area of focus for Tau. He continues to demonstrate his commitment to achieving maximum organisational performance and good governance within Johannesburg through accountability and transparency in a bid to place the city among the best in the local government stakes both in South Africa and across the globe. In October of 2011, he was elected regional Chairman of African National Congress (ANC) Johannesburg after positioning himself as the anti-greed candidate best suited to keeping a close eye on ANC resources.

In August of 2014, media reported on Tau's decision to publicly name and prosecute many local businesses that had defrauded the city of R200 million in more than 100 different cases of either fraud or corruption. Living up to his word after having launched a fraud hotline to drive the anti-corruption campaign, Tau has intensified his fight against craft by appointing an independent City of Johannesburg Ombudsman to protect the interests of the city’s citizens.

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Last Updated on 15 July 2016