25 March 2019

GOOD, inclusive economic growth is what SA needs

Statement by Mark Rountree

90% of the jobs created in the Western Cape last year were created in Cape Town, all of

them under former Mayor Patricia de Lille’s leadership. Data from the Western Cape

Provincial Government confirms that growth in this city is the most inclusive in the

province, because it is here where households and residents “benefit more equally” from

growth.

The 2018 employment data from StatsSA once again highlighted the very good results that

the City of Cape Town and the Western Cape were able to achieve for employment. Last year

Cape Town had the lowest unemployment of any metro in South Africa – almost 4 out of 5

people seeking work have it – and of the entire working age population, 54.6% of people are

working. This is the highest proportion for any city in South Africa.

Unfortunately, outside of Cape Town, just 3,000 jobs were created in the entire Western Cape

Province last year. Data from the Provincial Government notes concern that “income

inequality has in general been in the increase throughout the various districts and broader

Western Cape Province”, thus promoting, rather than reducing, inequality 1 . In Cape Town

however, the same report notes that “households and individuals … benefit more equally”

from growth. Capetonians can be proud of this inclusive style of growth – and of the number

of jobs created here. A full 90% of all net jobs created in the province in 2018 were created in

Cape Town.

That figure would have been higher had the City not, for the first quarter after years of

successive growth, recorded thousands of job losses in the last quarter of 2018. The city

grew employment by 18,000 and 15,000 jobs in the first and second quarters of 2018

respectively, despite this being the worst period of our then drought crisis. Following the

announcement of the resignation of former Mayor Patricia de Lille, growth dropped to 2,000

new jobs in the third quarter and 9,000 jobs were shed in the last quarter last year when new

leadership took over. These declines are well before loadshedding had begun. What could

have happened?

The role of any government is to create the conditions conducive for investment, so that the

private sector can invest and grow businesses in South Africa with confidence and thus grow

our economy and create many more jobs so that those who are seeking work can find it. This

has been the focus of Cape Town’s growth strategy for many years.

I was working as an advisor to Brett Herron from 2016 to 2018 and planning was under this

portfolio. By mid-2018, following De Lille’s announcement of her resignation, Cape Town’s

new leaders began requesting methods to circumvent South Africa’s Spatial Planning and

Land Use Management Act (SPLUMA) to interject local Councillors back in to development

decision-making.

https://www.westerncape.gov.za/assets/departments/treasury/Documents/Socio-economic-

profiles/2017/city_of_cape_town_2017_socio-economic_profile_sep-lg_-_26_january_2018.pdf


In the old South Africa, local Councillors were able to override the decisions of the city’s

professional administration by having control of who got development approval and who did

not. This enabling of NIMBYISM was how one could maintain the status quo of formerly

racially segregated neighbourhoods. In 2013, SPLUMA was passed by Cabinet and came in

to effect in 2015, at the end of de Lille’s first term as Mayor. Many Councillors moaned to

me, blaming De Lille for removing them from having a direct hand in planning applications,

when in fact the City administration processes had to change to comply with new national

legislation.

From 2015, the role of elected politicians is to direct and, through Council, democratically

approve the policies and future growth strategies for the city. The role of planning

professionals is to ensure that the decisions they take are in line with those policies and

strategies. These strategies are not backward looking: Cape Town’s strategic framework for

development, aimed at overcoming apartheid’s legacy, developed and adopted during De

Lille’s first term as Mayor, was recognised as the best in the world in 2017 2 .

The City’s administrative staff warned that reintroducing local politicians to the decision-

making process did not comply with SPLUMA and would furthermore introduce long and

very costly delays for the sector that created 2 out of every 3 jobs last year. The DA Caucus

leaders persisted and these discussions sent a powerful signal the construction sector. Last

month the construction industry released its concerns regarding the slowdown in approval

processes and warned this would cost the Western Cape thousands of jobs 3 . I am sad, but not

surprised, to see the measured declines in job creation.

We cannot create a future inclusive city if we promote NIMBYISM. The danger is

empowering views like the councillor who instructed me to tell the planning officials to stop

approving housing projects in her (formerly white) neighbourhood because it was “making it

look like Khayelitsha by the sea”. These views do not belong in our democratic society.

I plead to all South Africans to burst out of their bubbles. Embrace our wonderful, diverse

country and all its people. Move with the times. Cape Town, the Western Cape and South

Africa need leaders who promote the inclusive growth of our economy. Those who put the

needs of all South Africans ahead of their stomachs and ahead of the protection of embedded

privilege.


Mark Rountree is a scientist and accidental politician. He is currently the National Policy

officer for GOOD. www.forgood.org.za


2 https://www.bizcommunity.com/Article/196/389/162040.html

3 https://propertywheel.co.za/2019/02/property-forum-calls-on-government-to-help-construction-industry/

Good