Tag Archives: Helen Zille

10 statistics that will leave the rest of South Africa green with envy

Buried in Premier Helen Zille’s state of the province speech‚ delivered on Friday in the Western Cape legislature‚ were 10 statistics that will leave the rest of South Africa green with envy.

  1. Unemployment is 13.8 percentage points lower than the national average‚ and rural unemployment (14%) is the lowest since records began.
  2. 56% of mortgage bonds registered by Gauteng residents in the last year were for properties in the Western Cape.
  3. 75% of South Africa’s venture capital deals are done in the Western Cape‚ primarily involving tech start-ups.
  4. International tourist arrivals are up 16% in the past year.
  5. The backlog in issuing title deeds to housing subsidy beneficiaries is 28% — less than half the national figure of 59%.
  6. 234 Wi-Fi hotspots will be added to the existing 150 by the end of the year. They offer 250MB of free data per month‚ then charge R45 for an additional 5GB.
  7. Internet pages opened at Western Cape schools grew from 375 million in June 2015 to 3.8 billion in January 2017.
  8. The value of building plans approved increased by 27% in 2015‚ compared with a 6% decline nationally.
  9. Employment in farming and agricultural processing has increased by 40% in the last two years.
  10. 97% of fires are brought under control within an hour of being reported.

From: http://www.sowetanlive.co.za/news/2017/02/18/10-amazing-stats-thatll-make-you-wish-you-lived-in-the-fairest-cape

Why Cape Town is surfing the crest of a wave

In 1990, while I was part of the V&A Waterfront team, I bought an international travel magazine. There was a story on Barcelona’s renaissance after the end of Spain’s dictatorship. With events then starting to unfold in South Africa, I wondered if the same could happen in Cape Town.

Although there have been scores of accolades for the city since democracy in 1994, most of these have been from the city’s traditional markets with limited global awareness. Probably one of the most important accolades came from Parliament itself with this note from the Speaker of Parliament, Baleka Mbete: “On 25 October 2007, the National Assembly of South Africa agreed to a motion, noting that Cape Town was ranked the best city out of the country’s 283 municipalities.
The House further noted that the city won this award because of the way in which the municipality dealt with poverty, the level of access to basic services, its economic activity and infrastructure and because its citizens are well qualified.
The House recalled that in July [2006] Cape Town was ranked by USA’s Travel & Leisure magazine as the number one city in Africa and the Middle East and claimed tenth spot in the “best city in the world” category.
The National Assembly congratulates both the city administration and the residents of Cape Town on making it a world class city and a top tourist destination.”

TripAdvisor Traveller's ChoiceCape Town’s international profile received a major boost when, in 1997, it bid for the 2004 Olympics and made it through to the final three cities. Here, and with events like the Argus Cycle Tour, the city has repeatedly demonstrated its capacity and capability.

But it was TripAdvisor’s World’s Best Destination 2011 that almost took everybody by surprise. Was this one of the benefits of hosting the 2010 World Cup? Will it remain in the top 5 or was this a fluke showing? Cape Town’s ranking next year will be an indication.

World Design Capital 2014The latest achievement, and the first since the Olympic Bid to demonstrate a wider footprint that embraces Cape Town’s poorer areas, was making the three-city shortlist out of the 54 entries from 27 countries for World Design Capital 2014. (Read the full story here.) This is also, as far as I know, the first international bid out of South Africa where the Mandela-factor hasn’t been a trump card.

So what are the reasons for Cape Town’s success — accepting that God-given natural beauty isn’t the only reason? What does Cape Town owe its renaissance to? One of the reasons for the V&A Waterfront’s success has always been given as timing – the end of apartheid and SA’s isolation.

Institutional interventions
Timing must again be one of the reasons, but institutional interventions without bureaucratic control must surely be another? It is these institutions that have contributed more to Cape Town’s heritage and vitality than anything else. One of the first, if not the first, is the Cape Town Heritage Trust, established in 1987.

Cape Town Heritage Trust

The Cape Town Heritage Trust is an independent, private-sector, non-profit organisation which conserves the architectural, cultural and natural heritage of Cape Town and environs for the benefit of the inhabitants of the City and of the nation at large. The Trust was established in 1987 by the Cape Town City Council with the backing of the Cape Provincial Administration. A number of buildings in Shortmarket and Hout Streets, originally acquired for road-widening purposes, were donated to the Trust.


Cape Information Technology Initiative, a non-profit organisation established in 1998, develops & supports the information & communications technology cluster in the Western Cape.

There have been many initiatives — too many to mention here — some driven by local government but most by the private sector with local government support. This is a major reason for the growth and strength of Cape Town’s knowledge economy.

Those agencies that still kowtow to the politicians — like the provincial tourism agency — have never enjoyed the same level of success.

Looking at the reasons for Cape Town’s success, deputy mayor Ian Neilson, quotes Richard Florida, author of The Rise of the Creative Class and Who’s Your City?, who lists five required success factors:

  • aesthetics
  • civic leadership
  • safety – physical & economic
  • acceptance of diversity
  • effective legislation

“These factors define the cities that people want to live in,” he says, “and I think Cape Town does fairly well in all respects. We’ve concentrated on creating platforms for effective institutions and enabling effective legislation — to facilitate rather than control.”

Desirable cities and towns always attract the most creative and entrepreneurial people.

There’s little doubt that Helen Zille’s award as World’s Best Mayor in 2008 helps the city’s credibility. In a competition where public comments and votes do count, Capetonians made themselves heard.

Cape Town Partnership

The Cape Town Partnership, launched in 1999, is a collaboration between the public & private sectors working together to develop, promote & manage Cape Town Central City.

Consumer activism

Theodore Yach, who chairs the Cape Town Heritage Trust and is a member of the Central City Improvement District, says consumer activism is one of the reasons for Cape Town’s success. “People have started realising that it’s not just the city administration that needs to take responsibility. There are now about 40 City Improvement Districts (CIDs) around the city, and what’s happening there is a fantastic story. In the CBD alone, there’s been an explosion in value of ten times since 2000! That’s unheard of!”

While the CTP and its CIDs are excellent examples of consumer activism, a much earlier example needs to be mentioned. Gabriel Fagan and the late Victor Holloway conceived the idea for the redevelopment of the V&A Waterfront in 1970s and, after Holloway’s death in 1983, Fagan continued lobbying for this.

Creative Cape Town - Imagine City Hall

Creative Cape Town, a programme of the Cape Town Partnership established in 2006, communicates, supports and facilitates the development of the creative & knowledge economy in the Central City of Cape Town. Imagine City Hall is a citizen activation programme: its aim is to draw support for the development of the Cape Town City Hall as a dedicated cultural venue.

Then a group of waterfront enthusiasts, supported by then-mayor Sol Kreiner, managed to get permission from the port authorities to host the Pierhead Festival in 1985 – the first time widespread public access was allowed to the docks since the Suez Crisis in the 1960s! It was a resounding success and organising committee chair, Harold Gorvy, asked for a meeting with the ministers of transport and tourism to ask for the redevelopment of the area. They agreed and a committee under the chairmanship of Arie Burggraaf was announced the following year, resulting in the formation of the V&A Waterfront company. (I bumped into Hendrik Schoeman, the transport minister who took the decision, at the Waterfront in the mid-1990s just before his suicide. He remarked, sadly, that no-one would remember the roles played by the early lobbyists — consumer activists? — or the breakthrough decision he took to get it all started.)

Victor Holloway must also be credited with saving the Lutheran Church complex at the top of Strand Street. While arts editor of Die Burger, he published a superimposed photo of the area showing the proposed elevated freeway. The proposal was dropped after a public outcry. Cape Town is renown for its vocal citizens.

  • Citizen and consumer activism — taking action and responsibility — is the lifeblood of successful cities and towns.

Character of Capetonians
And then there is the character of Capetonians – more educated, creative, entrepreneurial and lifestyle-focused than citizens of most other cities.

Capetonians take ownership of their city more than one finds elsewhere in South Africa. Mornings and evenings, streets are filled with people walking (with or without dogs), jogging or cycling. That’s a rarity in other metropolitan areas.

Except for the brief period under Nomaindia Mfeketo’s mayoralty, when the city council approached a total meltdown, Cape Town has had strong and effective local government. Equally strong were the media and bodies like the Cape Institute of Architects, which engaged the council rigorously.

When the late Revel Fox (a prominent architect) was elected city councillor after the first democratic local government elections, he became chair of the important Town Planning Committee. Every meeting started an hour earlier for rookie councillors, when Revel took them through the agenda and the implications of the decisions they would be required to make.

Cape Town has grown up. Through recent projects as diverse as the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC) and the Cape Town Jazz Festival — and their capable management — it has shown that it competes on a world stage. The city’s hotels, restaurants and airport are all top-ranked in the world. Democracy did open the doors and the new constitution ended the era of conservativism. So, looking back, Cape Town did follow in Barcelona’s footsteps.

But is everything rosy? Not quite. The acclaimed Cape Town Partnership and its CIDs are not a solution for all Capetonians. Their mission still reads “for the central city” although there is now a CID in Athlone’s regional centre — the CID model only works where there is commercial property management who can afford to top up the municipality’s expenditure and efforts. It only works in affluent areas so it’s not a city-wide solution.

(Unfortunately, Andrew Boraine — CTP’s CEO — is as bad at returning phone calls as he’s always been… since his time as city manager, so I couldn’t get his comments on this or on Cape Town’s renaissance.)

And the city’s marketing is still trying to catch up with its mandate. Cape Town Tourism (CTT) has been talking about the Cape Town brand for five years and it’s three years since it was mandated by the City as custodian of Cape Town’s brand. The process has followed a long road of consultation and inclusiveness, rather than inspired and inspiring leadership. If one follows Twitter, the ‘eats’ at the last meeting were outstanding, as was the enthusiasm for something which can only be described as a clone of Pick n Pay’s tagline. (CTT previously appropriated New York City’s famous signature I ♥ NY for its Facebook page, I ♥ Cape Town. As veteran marketing commentator Chris Moerdyk remarked during the preparation of a related story*, anyone who uses NY’s signature phrase will always be regarded as a copycat.)

CTT has announced that its new brand positioning of Inspiration rolls out from July 1 with new creatives, images and productions on the Discovery and National Geographic channels for example. But will this address the domestic market — the mainstay of all tourism?

After extensive research, the national department of tourism has found that they will get far more bang for their buck by growing domestic tourism, and this is where they and all their agencies are focussing their attention.

Cape Town desperately needs to change perceptions nationally that it is not an enclave of white privilege and that it is welcoming to all visitors. Surely the DA needs that too for further gains at the polls.

Related content: Why is Cape Town special?

More on the CID model
Since its establishment in November 2000, the CCID has become an internationally acclaimed model of public-private partnership between property owners and businesses, supported by the City Council. The formation of the CCID was a significant event for Cape Town, because it was the first major city in South Africa to implement a fully constituted, legally bound Improvement District covering the entire core of the Central City. Property owners have contributed more than R150 million to the rejuvenation of the Central City during the past eight years.

A Central Improvement District (CID) is a precisely defined geographical area, approved by the City Council in terms of the Municipal Property Rates Act, Section 22 (Special Rates Area) and the CID bylaw – to provide complementary services in that area.

To address the stated requirements of property owners, 51% of the CCID’s annual budget is spent on security, approximately 22% on cleansing, 3% on social development and 11% on communications and marketing. The remainder of the budget goes towards operational and administrative costs of the CCID.

The CCID offers safety and security, urban management, social development and marketing services.

* The comment was published on CapeInfo along with the most successful destination brands to have come out of the city. I’m trying to find it in the archives which weren’t transferred to the new content management system.

Nothing demonstrates the need for a strong & free media better

It’s only when one starts exploring South Africa’s northern provinces – Limpopo, Mpumalanga and North West – that one realises that a strong and free media is the one thing which can save South Africa.

What do these provinces share in common? Local government incompetency and mismanagement on a grand sale; corruption and nepotism beyond belief.

It’s been going on for years, it’s pandemic and what is reported is the tip of an iceberg.

And that’s because there are no strong, credible newspapers for the area. Public servants are rarely held to task and they are accustomed to operating off the radar until they want credit for something.

You won’t find many reporters who stand out for their tenacity and integrity in these provinces because what most small, local newspapers need are writers who can churn out ‘advertorials’, to keep the advertisers happy. This is Die Son country, the successful tabloid rag that hardly develops better citizens…

When a major property developer openly brags that she doesn’t need to have building plans passed because she has “friends in Polokwane,” one realises that it’s both endemic and pandemic.

One Limpopo municipal manager dines at a local restaurant every day with his colleagues, always rigorous about taking the till slips back to the office. One has to wonder if the citizens of this cash-strapped town are footing the bill.

And it’s not only local government that needs greater transparency and accountability. The DA in Limpopo needs a kick in the bum too. Their email addresses on the DA website are still incorrect; something CapeInfo pointed out to them in March last year.

Desiree van der Walt, Limpopo's DA provincial leader

Desiree van der Walt, Limpopo's DA provincial leader

And one has to ask if the DA’s provincial leader, Desiree van der Walt, is wholly unprofessional or just bad-mannered, or both. We called and wrote to her at Helen Zille’s suggestion last year. There was no response. This year we wrote, called and wrote again, many times. There was one email back promising a response the following Monday, and that’s where it died. Even a recent request from Helen Zille’s office to contact me drew a blank. Does she forget that’s she is a public representative, on the taxpayers’ payroll?

It really is a pity that Avusa (The Times/Sunday Times), Independent Media, Mail&Guardian and Media24 don’t have stronger representation in the provinces. And if government was serious about rooting out corruption and building an open, transparent and efficient state, they would rather be looking at ways of strengthening the media in every corner of the country.

One wonders what it took to tame America’s “Wild West”… might it have been a free press?

Tourism representatives must be accountable

Two dates in the Western Cape raise the need for the public to hold its tourism representatives to greater accountability.

September 30 is the deadline for your comments on tourism MEC Alan Winde’s plan for restructuring tourism marketing in the Western Cape.

Now CapeInfo’s readers have already voted – only 10 out of 170 votes think his proposal is a good start.  That’s a 5.9% approval rating!  That’s a BIG FAIL!

So just presenting the proposal shows that he and his advisors have not done their homework, or they are not up to the job.

This must be seen in the light that Winde has been tourism MEC for 15 months.  An abysmal plan is all he has to offer after all that time.

While in opposition, surely he should have been champing at the bit to get things right the moment his party swept to power?  Surely he should have known just what needs to be done?  Or do public representatives waste their time in the hallowed corridors of political power?

Apparently, some DA MPLs did want to start preparing for power while they were in opposition.  But Helen Zille told them to focus on winning elections rather than preparing plans to govern.

So we’re paying people for electioneering rather than representation?  That sounds a bit like the ANC’s dilemma where leaders are in a permanent state of electioneering.

15 months and still nothing to show

It’s as mind-boggling that Winde has also announced – after 15 months of tenure and after announcing a tourism restructuring plan – that he intends grouping all the Western Cape’s marketing agencies (including Cape Town Routes Unlimited – CTRU) into one Economic Development Agency (EDA).

Now when I asked him about this – it was a predecessor’s “Joint Marketing Inititiative” which was never carried through – in our May interview, he said there were no plans to pursue this.

This sounds seriously like “any plan is a good plan if you don’t have a plan.”

Winde refers to EDAs in London, New South Wales (Australia) and New York as shining examples of what the Western Cape wants to emulate.  EDA’s all over the UK are facing closure because of their cost.  London’s might survive primarily because of the 2012 Olympics. EDA’s in the UK have been effective when they have big budgets and focus on economic development and support.  Tourism marketing always remained the job of DMO’s.

Winde’s counterpart with the Transport portfolio, MEC Robin Carlisle, seems to be as bogged down.  If he is serious about making travel on the Western Cape’s roads safer, he would be going all out to encourage tourism traffic to follow Route 62 – bypassing the notoriously dangerous N1.  The tourism benefits would be incalculable.

But he and Helen Zille have ignored our open letter on this and the emails to them regarding this. So the Western Cape Provincial Government doesn’t score highly when it comes to the interests of the province’s most important industry over the past 15 months.

There is no doubt that a new structure is needed.

Winde has been naïve to expect leadership and buy-in for a new tourism structure in the Province from existing organisations, set on retaining their turf and status quo.  There is no doubt that a new structure is needed. Cape Town and the Western Cape competes at a disavantage with some other world regions and cities.  Sydney is one example. It’s going to take much more leadership from Winde.

Cape Town Tourism (CTT) AGM
October 7 is the date for Cape Town Tourism’s AGM.

The task team for restructuring tourism in the province has been a meaningless flop, clouded in secrecy, and pursued a single agenda which ignored CTT’s input.

Ian Bartes, CTT’s chair, represented the organisation on the task team and championed a policy of “quiet diplomacy”, which to all intents and purposes has failed.  He has recently resigned from the task team.

He spoke to CapeInfo about the difficulties of serving on the task team, the disputes with minutes, input which was ignored and the City following Province’s line – against Cape Town’s best interests.

It is CapeInfo’s view that Province has and is trying to railroad through what it wants, without thinking things through properly.  Province cannot fix their mess at CTRU so they want something new.

This is the tail wagging the dog.

This is the tail wagging the dog. CTT is SA’s largest tourism member organisation and has an enviable track record. City economies are the powerhouses that drive successful regions. By comparison, Winde and his tourism department have an abysmal track record.

In spite of the September 30 cut-off date for responses, a new consultant for the restructuring process has been appointed and has already prepared a new plan.  My guess is that it will be worse than the first.

CTT needs to get ready to do battle.  It needs an independent, strong, forceful and visionary chairperson.  One who will stand up to Province and the City, without fear or favour; one who will know that engaging respect is more important than being popular.

Over and over again, politicians and bureaucrats have shown that they cannot understand tourism – it’s about people, not processes.

  • CapeInfo has long been critical of CTRU but were reminded by Brian McDonald, vice-chair,  and Riedwaan Jacobs of Global Conferences, in comments to a previous blog post that “the Cape Town Convention Bureau is the envy of all the other cities in South Africa and they have done an excellent job.”  They are correct.

Open letters to Helen Zille & Dan Plato

Arriving back in the Western Cape after 15 months away was a shock… and a very pleasant surprise.  It was like arriving in another country — clean, well-maintained roads, great signage, intelligent & visible policing, and spaces that citizens use and enjoy with pride.

The Western Cape is a world-class destination but, obviously, it can always be better.  So here are two open letters – to provincial premier Helen Zille and mayor of Cape Town Dan Plato.

Open letter to Helen Zille

Tourism has never been your strong point but great governance has.  So you must agree that officials must go the extra mile and think out of the box since tourism is the province’s most important industry… and its lifeblood.

There is an opportunity to really drive tourism with great effect into the Western Cape’s country towns but your tourism department seems bogged down in bureaucratic restraints.

A request for signage on the N1 to point out that Route 62 (Worcester to Oudtshoorn) offers and attractive alternative to the N1 received the following response from your chief director of tourism:

“The Department has always supported your request for Route 62 tourism road signage on the N1, with formal submissions provided via the provincial regional Tourism Liaison Committees to the relevant road authorities, SANRAL (SA National Roads Agency) and Provincial Roads on a number of occasions.  As you are aware the road authorities are, by legislation, the custodians of road reserve areas and will not approve tourism route signage on an existing numbered route.”

This is not good enough.  If bureacracies are constipated, a political solution must be found.

What are the key factors that need to be considered?

The N1 north of the Hex River valley is one of the least attractive and most dangerous stretches of road in the Western Cape.  The section between Worcester and Beaufort West passes through one village that offer travellers very little.

Taking the R62 tourist route as a detour only adds 70–100km to the total distance.  It passes through 11 villages that showcase some of the best the Western Cape has to offer.  Most offer excellent tourism products and local produce.  Promoting the detour would have a significant economic impact and travellers who take this route will return!

This is the route that World Cup visitors should be taking if they travel between Cape Town and northern host cities.  And if Gauteng holidaymakers started using this route, these towns would see a sustainable benefit.

It’s a no-brainer.  Can you make it happen?

Open letter to Dan Plato, mayor of Cape Town

I was a tourist in Cape  Town for about a week.  It’s no wonder that it’s one of the world’s top cities.

But two things soured the visit.  A Metrorail security guard told us to stop photographing the beautiful old Victorian railway station at Muizenberg without official permission.  We slammed Melrose Arch for the same policies in a previous post here.  It’s unacceptable and happens frequently, we’re told.

Please let everybody in Cape Town know that it has to be a tourist-friendly city and that photographs are the memories visitors share back home.

The second sour note stems from idiotic City signage at Camps Bay beach.  We walked the entire length of the Camps Bay promenade and back again.  I am aware of dog-walking restrictions during summer.  I looked for signs and saw none, saw dogs on the beach and assumed that the summer restrictions had ended.

After picnicking on the lawn, I took my leashed pets for a walk.  As I was leaving the beach 40 minutes later, two beach constables stopped me and issued a ticket for walking the animals.

They were polite but not interested in my reasoning… because there are signs which you only see when you leave the beach.  You don’t see them when you look from the sidewalk because they face the beach,

Please get someone intelligent to review all the City’s signs and can I send you the ticket I received?

Cape Town has the world’s best mayor

HELEN ZILLE, Executive Mayor of Cape Town and leader of South Africa’s opposition Democratic Alliance, has been awarded the 2008 World Mayor Prize by City Mayors, the international urban affairs think tank. Commentators supporting her nomination said that in a country devoid of present day role models, this “amazing lady” was making a difference and giving people hope. “Her only equals are Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela in Southern Africa.”

Tann vom Hove, Editor of City Mayors said Helen Zille was the judging panel’s unanimous choice for the 2008 World Mayor Prize. “The Mayor of Cape Town has dedicated all her professional life to further the well-being of all sections of South African society. She has done so with courage, tenacity and, above all, a deep-felt love for Cape Town, her country and its people,” Tann vom Hove added.

Prior to entering politics, Helen Zille made a name for herself during the apartheid era as a political journalist, working for the Rand Daily Mail, South Africa’s leading liberal newspaper. Working there, she emerged as a leading anti-apartheid critic, famously exposing the circumstances behind Steve Biko’s death in police custody in 1977. Since becoming Mayor of Cape Town in March 2006, Helen Zille has survived an aborted attempt by the provincial government to downgrade her office and an attempted coalition coup. To the people of Cape Town, she is an inspiration and shining example of what good local government should be.

Runner-up of the 2008 World Mayor Project is Elmar Ledergerber, Mayor of Zurich. He will receive the 2008 World Mayor Commendation. Tann vom Hove, Editor of City Mayors says: “The mayor deserves this honour because of his success in building bridges between the privileged and less privileged communities of his city.” The Mayor is also praised for his efforts to make both Swiss and non-Swiss citizens feel at home in Zurich.

Third place has been awarded to Leopoldo López, Mayor of Chacao, and prominent Venezuelan opposition politician. He is admired both as a hands-on mayor and a national politician fighting for democratic openness and fairness in Venezuela.

The top 11 mayors of World Mayor 2008
1. Helen Zille, Mayor Cape Town, South Africa
2. Elmar Ledergerber, Mayor of Zurich, Switzerland
3. Leopoldo Eduardo López, Mayor of Chacao, Venezuela
4. Phil Gordon, Mayor of Phoenix, USA
5. Ulrich Maly, Mayor of Nuremberg, Germany
6. Jaime Nebot, Mayor of Guayaquil, Ecuador
7. Marides Fernando, Mayor of Marikina City, Philippines
8. Mohammad Baqer Ghalibaf, Mayor of Tehran, Iran
9. Göran Johansson, Mayor of Gothenburg, Sweden
10. Salvador Gandara, Mayor of Villa Nueva, Guatemala
11. José Fogaça, Porto Alegre, Brazil

Full details: http://www.worldmayor.com/contest_2008/world-mayor-2008-results.html

The World Mayor Project
World Mayor, a project organised by the local government think tank City Mayors, aims to raise the profile of mayors worldwide as well as to honour those who have made long-lasting contributions to their communities and are committed to the well-being of cities nationally and internationally. According to city residents from all continents, an outstanding mayor must possess qualities of greatness: leadership and vision, good management abilities, social and economic awareness, ability to provide security and to protect the environment, as well as the skill to foster good relations between communities from different cultural, racial and social backgrounds. The World Mayor Project was first conducted in 2004.

In 2004 Edi Rama won the Award for his achievements in turning the drab and neglected post-communist capital of Albania into a thriving western European city, before being chosen as leader of the country’s Socialist Party. As mayor, Dora Bakoyannis contributed substantially to the success of the Athens Olympics and ensured that the Games would be of long-lasting benefit to the Greek capital. After receiving the 2005 World Mayor Award, she was appointed foreign minister. John So, winner of World Mayor 2006, is Melbourne’s first directly elected Lord Mayor. Born in Hong Kong, he is an example of the ‘Australian dream’.

Helen Zille

Mayor Helen Zille’s role in public life began with a stint as political correspondent for the Rand Daily Mail, South Africa’s leading liberal newspaper during the apartheid era. While at the paper, she emerged as a leading anti-apartheid critic, famously exposing the circumstances behind Steve Biko’s death under police custody in 1977 – claimed to have been from of self-inflicted wounds. She also made a name for herself at the height of apartheid as a member of the Black Sash white women’s resistance movement and as a peace activist in her adoptive city of Cape Town. She then worked in public affairs as a public policy consultant and as director of communications for the University of Cape Town.

Prior to becoming mayor, Zille was elected as a member of the Western Cape provincial legislature in 1999, serving as executive council member (MEC) for education until 2001 and then as leader of the opposition, before being elected as an MP to the South African Parliament in 2004, also in Cape Town. Zille is leader of the Democratic Alliance, a relatively recent party in post-apartheid South Africa, but with antecedents within earlier parties of the liberal democratic multiracial tradition in South African politics, most notably the Progressive Party of Helen Suzman.

During World Mayor 2008, Helen Zille has had the most passionate and eloquent support of any candidate. Her humanity, charm, integrity, vision and political know-how have all been praised in equal measures. “Mayor Zille is a phenomenal woman, she leads the city as opposed to ruling it. She understands the people who live in the city and what they need to be successful. She appeals to people across age, gender and race. She is a true inspiration to the youth of South Africa.”

“Helen Zille is an inspiration. Her courage, tenacity, honesty and common sense are so refreshing as we plough through the difficult political time we are having at the moment. She is a shining example of good governance.”

“Helen Zille has taken a strong anti-corruption stance, unlike her predecessor. She has also succeeded in uniting a politically divided opposition in the best interests of Cape Town citizens. Her strong leadership on fighting crime, the preparations for the 2010 World Cup and drug abuse has made Cape Town a world class city again.”

This award does more for “Brand Cape Town” and “Brand South Africa” than any marketing hype. This is what leadership is all about. CapeInfo salutes Helen and hopes that readers will add their say by clicking on the “Comment” link at the top of this story.

Another reason for Greatness?

Cape Town could also soon be recognised globally as the city with the best mayor in the world. And so could Johannesburg, but Cape Town seems to be ahead. Both Cape Town’s Helen Zille and Joburg’s Amos Masondo have made it into the shortlist of 50 top mayors in the world.

Now if Cape Town’s mayor wins, “Brand Cape Town” benefits most. It reinforces the city’s claim to excellence.

The organisers of the international City Mayors poll explain their goals:

“Cities and their people are essential drivers of all economies. City Mayors works for a harmonious and fruitful relationship between cities and their economies. City Mayors also analyses the new challenges of urban governance, including migration pressures, community integration, disaster management and resilience against terrorism.

“In this century, metropolitan areas, rather than nation states, will shape the world’s social, cultural, technological and economic agendas. This process will lead to increased competition for human, intellectual and material resources but, also, force cities to co-operate with and learn from one another. City Mayors promotes constructive competition and acts as a forum for cooperation and communication between cities.

“Successful cities require strong and resourceful leaders and administrations. City Mayors backs demands to give municipal government increased power and authority as well as additional resources.”

Click here to vote now for either Helen Zille or Amos Masondo.