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Outgoing mayor Amos Masondo was hailed by the deputy president for his achievements during his 10 years at the helm of the city, among them regenerating the inner city and transforming Soweto.
DEPUTY President Kgalema Motlanthe has hailed the former mayor of Joburg, Amos Masondo, as an outstanding leader, a gracious human being and a torch bearer of the democratic revolution.

Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe (Photo: Enoch Lehung, City of Johannesburg)Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe (Photo: Enoch Lehung, City of Johannesburg)Highlighting Masondo’s 10-year tenure, Motlanthe said he had played a “catalytic role” in the building and development of the Johannesburg Metropolitan Municipality “in many respects”, adding that he had achieved this “at a time when such exceptional industriousness and fortitude were sorely required qualities”.

He had “offered much-needed leadership in ensuring that the Johannesburg metro comes alive and strives to execute its electoral mandate”. Motlanthe made these remarks at a gala dinner held to install the new mayor and bid the former farewell, on 26 May in Sandton.

Being the country’s economic hub, Joburg had a disproportionately high number of challenges at the start of Masondo’s two terms, Motlanthe highlighted, adding “under your stewardship Johannesburg has been steadily but surely addressing these massive challenges and I am sure it will continue on this trajectory even after you have parted ways with it”.

At the end of Masondo’s decade at the helm of the city, it can count a number of achievements in delivering services, although it is still grappling with its fair share of challenges.

Masondo inherited Johannesburg from Isaac Mogase, when it was plagued by maladministration; investor confidence was low and it had little credibility as a borrower. There were social and economic disparities, the result of from apartheid’s spatial planning. There was also a shortage in social housing, a lack of employment and an over-concentration of people. More than 50 percent of historically disadvantaged areas had no economic or infrastructure investment.

Under his tenure, however, Johannesburg’s fortunes have been turned around and the economic growth rate has stabilised. Socio-economic disparities are being dealt with, jobs are being created, economic opportunities are available to all and sustainable human settlements have been built for some.

The City has tarred all streets in Soweto and delivered essential basic services to poorer communities. It has built community centres, sports facilities, multipurpose centres, libraries, information hubs, recreational parks and other amenities. Strides have been made in creating sustainable human settlements in Kliptown, Diepsloot, Orange Farm and Alexandra.

Former executive mayor Amos Masondo passes on ukhamba to executive mayor Parks Tau (Photo: Enoch Lehung, City of Johannesburg)Former executive mayor Amos Masondo passes on ukhamba to executive mayor Parks Tau (Photo: Enoch Lehung, City of Johannesburg)“On his watch, the City of Joburg developed Soweto and transformed it from the apartheid reserve it used to be into a modern city. We can now say that his legacy is dedicated to dealing directly with the evils of apartheid,” Motlanthe said.

Joburg’s short- and long-term international credit ratings have improved. The City rode the wave of the global economic downturn, increasing long-term borrowings from R5-billion in 2005 to R10,3-billion by the end of 2009. Relative to revenue, long-term borrowings increased from 37 percent in 2005 to 54 percent of revenue in 2009. There is now a year-on-year increase in revenue collection, with a targeted increase of R6,4-million a year.

Systematic improvements to its financial management procedures and practices earned the City three consecutive unqualified audit reports.

Under Masondo, several programmes were implemented to accelerate economic growth. The greening imbalance and other inequalities between the northern and southern quadrants of the metro were addressed.

An Integrated Development Plan was introduced to tackle reconstruction and development, reduce crime through enforcement of by-laws, increase metro police visibility, and rejuvenate and regenerate the inner city. Primary health care was decentralised to intensify immunisation and HIV/Aids campaigns. Masondo was also proactive in dealing with the HIV/Aids epidemic, increasing resources at clinics and expanding health care accessibility.

Rea Vaya
Achievements that characterise Masondo’s 10 years in office include the implementation of Rea Vaya, Africa’s flagship Bus Rapid Transit system; hosting a successful football World Cup in 2010; addressing urbanisation and migration; and creating successful partnerships in regenerating the dilapidated inner city.

He also introduced the Inner City Charter to help restore investor confidence in the inner city. This resulted in many former and some new business owners returning to invest in and open businesses in the inner city, contributing to job creation. Informal settlements have been upgraded and a comprehensive programme dealing with the formalisation of these has been introduced.

Writer and poet Gcina Mhlophe entertains guests at the Legacy Dinner (Photo: Enoch Lehung, City of Johannesburg)Writer and poet Gcina Mhlophe entertains guests at the Legacy Dinner (Photo: Enoch Lehung, City of Johannesburg)Motlanthe said Masondo belonged to a “legion” of those enlisted for the struggle to liberate the country without looking back, and committed steadfastly to the values of liberation. “Your mettle in the liberation struggle can only be matched by your unwavering commitment to the public service, since being involved in public office in 1994,” he said.

On his way to Joburg mayor, Masondo was a trade unionist, participated in the anti-Afrikaans riots and the Soweto Civic Association, served as co-ordinator of the ANC’s regional election and was imprisoned on Robben Island, among others.

“I am sure that this is the experience that comrade Amos brought with him when he was deployed as the mayor of Johannesburg. He is a person whom I could describe as someone with a political attitude towards Johannesburg, especially Soweto, where he grew up,” said Motlanthe.

Political career
Before being elected mayor of the wealthiest city in Africa, Masondo was a member of the Gauteng legislature, serving as the MEC for health until 1998. He was then political adviser to then Gauteng premier, Mbhazima Shilowa, until his appointment as mayor in December 2000.

He was the first elected mayor of the unified City of Joburg. He was re-elected unopposed five years later, serving an effective 10 years by 18 May 2011, the end of his term.

Motlanthe noted that he had drawn a lot from the knowledge of Masondo, the son of Sam and Anna Masondo. He was born in the coastal province of KwaZulu-Natal, in 1953. He grew up in the Soweto suburb of Senaoane and was educated there, where he also got his political awakening.

He was a civic activist for decades and is considered by his peers as modest, taciturn and a bit shy – a man of moral integrity and resilience. He was listed on the 2008 World Mayor Award’s list, which recognises mayors worldwide and honours those who have served their communities well and have contributed to the wellbeing of cities.

Johannesburg is home to about 3,8 million people, with 1,3 million households. The city is 1 645 square kilometres in size, and generates a large chunk of the country’s gross domestic product. Close to 15 percent of the national workforce is employed here and about 74 percent of South African companies have their headquarters in Johannesburg, making the city Africa’s wealthiest.

Former executive mayor Amos Masondo and his wife Khosi (Photo: Enoch Lehung, City of Johannesburg)Former executive mayor Amos Masondo and his wife Khosi (Photo: Enoch Lehung, City of Johannesburg)Financial and business sectors are dotted between Joburg’s municipal boundaries, as are lifestyle and leisure retreats, retail and wholesale traders, community and social services, manufacturing, agriculture and construction, to list a few.

Masondo said although he was proud of Joburg’s successes, the City was liable to be transparent about its challenges, including reducing high levels of poverty and unemployment, a target set for 2014.

He conceded that billing and revenue were still problematic and apologised to all households of the inconvenience encountered. The Call Centre was another challenge.

Motlanthe counteracted allegations that Masondo’s tenure had been marred by the recent much publicised billing system, noting that although it was true that glitches in governance invariably raised the heckles of residents, this did not eclipse the “many” successes he had achieved.

“And I am sure that many of the residents of Johannesburg can attest to the fact that, challenges notwithstanding, Johannesburg is indeed becoming a world-class city,” Motlanthe added.

It remained a challenge for Masondo’s successor to take up the cudgels to put other under-developed areas such as Orange Farm and Diepsloot on par with the rest of the developed parts of the city, said the deputy president.

“Your work was very exacting, but like a disciplined and committed activist, you provided the best service at all times. Your work distinguished you as a capable manager and a strategist and we assure you that you left the legacy which we will strive to emulate. Indeed, your achievements will be a hard act to follow.”

Although Rome wasn’t built in a day, as the saying went, what Masondo had managed to accomplish in just under 10 years was laudable. “I am confident that your legacy will inspire the next generation of leadership to continue to strive for a socially and economically integrated city just like other major cosmopolitan cities,” Motlanthe said.

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