SA’s ruling party, African National Congress (ANC), was trounced in August as a combination of two opposition parties; the Democratic Alliance (DA) and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) joined forces to give Johannesburg a new mayor, Herman Mashaba, from the Democratic Alliance.
Mayor Herman Mashaba’s victory had been a historic one because ANC had held the reins in Johannesburg since the apartheid regime was put to bed. It seems the new mayor is looking to make more history as he has announced a back-pedaling on a controversial plan that had been proposed when the ANC was still in power.
When ANC was still in power in 2014, it had rolled out the ambitious cycle lanes project which had involved building cycle lanes in some parts of the city to encourage people to cycle.
The public’s reception of the plan at the time had been mixed. Some considered it a vanity project for the city’s growing elite and others liked the idea of encouraging residents to leave their cars and cycle.
SA’s opposition parties had, however, criticized the move stating that the money would be better directed towards providing services for poor people. The cycle lanes project saw the city setting aside 70 million rands ($490,000; £370,000) for a project aimed at mostly the rich areas in the city.
Now that the ball is in the new mayor’s park, Mayor Herman Mashaba has said that the project would only be looked at once all the city’s roads had been tarred. The move to halt the project has been more widely welcomed than the move to set it in motion.
It also shows the influence of firebrand Julius Malema, for although EFF did not win the election, they had been most critical of the cycle lanes during their election campaign and now they seem to be getting their way.
Johannesburg is one of SA’s biggest cities and it is really strong on infrastructure, but like any other city, however, there are areas where residents still wrestle with a lack of basic amenities such as housing, water, or proper roads.
It will definitely take more than the 70 million rands allocated for the cycle lanes project for the new mayor to alleviate poverty in the city, but it is a gesture that will make the city’s poor not feel so forgotten in the midst of the beautiful city.