Mayor Mashaba spells out his plan for Jozi
Newly elected Johannesburg Executive Mayor Cllr Herman Phillip Mashaba says when South Africa achieved its democracy in 1994, he was genuinely convinced that the days of suffering for black people were over.
“I believed that black people would have jobs and earn decent salaries, that black people would have decent houses with flushing toilets, that they would have their dignity restored. I was wrong,” the 57-year-old veteran businessman said on Monday night at the Johannesburg City Hall, where he defeated African National Congress mayoral candidate Cllr Parks Tau for the mayoralty by 19 votes. He received 144 votes to former Executive Mayor Tau’s 125.
“Twenty-two years into our freedom, black people in Alexandra still live in squalor. That is just a street across my house, which is clean, has a flushing toilet and a big garden. That is wrong. It cannot be right in a world-class city in Africa,” he says.
Asked what he would do to turn the situation around, he said: “Number one, as of tonight, I declare corruption public enemy number one in the City of Johannesburg.”
He said his five-year term would be characterised by ridding the City of corruption and delivering services to residents.
“My team and I will leave no stone unturned. We will search and sniff for corruption. Wherever and whenever we find it, rest assured we will flush it out without thinking twice. Our work begins now. I will appoint my mayoral committee within a week, and we will have to hit the ground running. All hands on deck. Time is not on our side. Five years is too little to deal with institutionalised corruption,” he said.
“Diesploot has no reason to be the way it is. That has to change. People must have decent houses, tarred roads, clean running water, flushing toilets, affordable electricity, clinics, schools and so on,” he said.
Asked what his definition of corruption was, Mashaba said: “No more job for pals, friends, girlfriends and boyfriends, and family and relatives. That is history now. We will be doing employment auditing. The tender system is going to have a new meaning under my watch. The public purse is going to be hawkishly guarded. And the residents are going to be our bosses. Ratepayers are going to have a say about their taxes and how they want their City governed. We are returning power to the residents,” he said.
Mashaba’s story is a real rags to riches one. It all starts in a poor village of GaRamotse, in Hammanskraal, about 30km outside Pretoria. He was raised by his mother, who earned a living as a domestic worker for a white family. His father died when he was only two years old. He had to work his way up to becoming one of South Africa’s influential and wealthiest businesspeople.
“I was not the one to let my surroundings determine what kind of future I was going to have. I knew there was a better and richer world waiting out there for me and I was determined to find it,” he said.
In the early 1980s he attempted a BA degree at the University of the North (now the University of Limpopo) but unrest cut short his studies. Then a job at a Spar supermarket dissuaded him from leaving the country to swell the ranks of the then liberation organisations.
“I worked very briefly for another person. Soon I was able to buy myself a car. I started to think business.”
He then started selling various products from the boot of his car.
“I sold anything, from insurance policies to fire detection systems, linen, crockery and dinner sets,” he said.
His break came late in 1983 when he sold hair products on a commission basis for a company in Johannesburg.
“After two years selling that, I decided it was time my wife, Connie, and I started our own haircare-manufacturing business,” he said.
In 1985 the first bottle of Black Like Me products hit the market. He served as the company’s CEO until January 2004.
A consummate entrepreneur, he has investments in the property, financial services, insurance brokerage, bullet proof materials, private security, fuel distribution, global cleaning, facilities management and construction sectors. He has resigned his position as chairman of the Free Market Foundation to pursue a career in politics. He is the author of two books, Black Like Me and Capitalist Crusader. He and his wife have two children, Khensani and Rhulani. He plays golf and tennis when he finds the time. He supports both Soweto soccer rivals Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs.