Plagiarising Success: Phalatse’s Campaign Off to a Weak Start

As of last week, Mpho Phalatse is the DA’s recently announced Mayoral Candidate for the City of Johannesburg. I hear you asking: “…who?”

Please don’t worry, you would not be alone. Before Herman Mashaba appointed her as his MMC for Health and Social Development I hadn’t heard of her either and we were in the same party back then.

Credit where it is due, Phalatse was a very good MMC of Health and Social Development.

As to whether that qualifies someone to run the City of Johannesburg remains the mountain to climb for Phalatse’s campaign.

For nearly two weeks, I have had the misfortune of hearing Phalatse’s campaign claiming service delivery successes that I personally witnessed Mashaba lead in Johannesburg.

To add insult to injury, it is well documented that Mashaba delivered these achievements by-in-large without the support of the DA – the party in whose name Phalatse now plagiarises Mashaba’s achievements.

When challenged by 702’s Bongani Bingwa on exactly this contradiction, Phalatse’s response was “it was a team effort” – presumably the team minus the captain.

So why should you care? Bear with me and read on.

What Phalatse did was plagiarism. If you doubt this, bear in mind that the consistent element in almost every definition of plagiarism is the presentation of another’s work or ideas as one’s own.

Had it been a university, she would have been disassociated from, expelled and banned from returning. Because it took place in the South African political theatre, it will be chalked up as a (relatively) minor thing. 

What it does demonstrate is a degree of ethical bankruptcy. Today it may be the act of misappropriating someone else’s ideas and work

To examine the full dimensions of Phalatse’s hypocrisy, consider the following. 

When Mashaba was the Mayor of Johannesburg, the DA could not claim his successes enough. Countless social media posts and press statements were issued which both celebrated the successes and attributed them directly to Mashaba’s leadership. 

When Mashaba left, these same leaders could not have been quicker to disown Mashaba, claiming his Mayoralty was an “accident” and a “car wreck.” Suddenly all of those achievements went up in smoke. 

Now, less than two years later, the position has shifted to a hybrid of these two positions, claiming his successes while simultaneously disassociating from Mashaba. 

It takes a special kind of hypocrisy to move between these three positions within 2 years. 

As we descend further into the depths of the hypocrisy, let’s explore the dishonesty of the newest position – that it was a “team effort.”

I served as Mashaba’s Chief of Staff in the City of Johannesburg. Amongst my duties were interfacing with MMCs to achieve the coordination of Mashaba’s service delivery agenda.

I can tell you firsthand, under pain of perjury, that the following arose entirely from Mashaba’s political leadership:

The Diphetogo programme which saw R2 billion being redirected from vanity projects and political luxuries like international travel, conferencing and self-promoting advertising to electricity, roads, water and housing. 

Massive infrastructure investment, increasing water, electricity, roads and housing’s share of the capital budget from 58% to 71% – initiating the first recorded declines in water bursts, electricity outages and deteriorating road conditions. 

An anti-corruption unit, led by a former Scorpion, that investigated over 6000 case, totaling more than R35 billion in dodgy transactions and affecting over 800 arrests. 

The Inner-City rejuvenation project which saw 154 abandoned buildings being claimed by the City and put out to tender – planned to produce R32 billion in investment, 25 000 low-cost affordable housing units and 12 000 construction sector jobs. 

Extension of clinic hours in 26 city operated clinics, Johannesburg’s first city-operated drug rehabilitation centers and the rollout of mobile clinics. You read correctly, even with these Health-related achievements were Mashaba’s initiatives after meeting families on the campaign trail that desperately needed these services. 

The largest pro-poor agenda in the City’s history including; building over 7000 homes, delivering more than 8000 title deeds, electrifying 20 informal settlements and initiating 6000 site and service land ownership sites. 

The expansion of the JMPD force by 50% in the largest metro police recruitment in recent South African history, establishment of specialized JMPD narcotics unit and the establishment of initiation of municipal courts to prosecute by-law offenders. 

For Phalatse’s campaign to claim credit for the above is not just absurd, it is dishonest. 

Let’s be clear about something; Mashaba does not claim these achievements as his own. 

Mashaba may have provided the vision and the leadership to ensure these achievements happened. He acknowledges coalition partners, city officials and many others, including MMCs, were involved in these successes. This is because successful people who achieve great things, do not feel the need to claim the successes of others. 

For what it may be worth, Phalatse and the DA would be better served by a campaign which provides her own vision for Johannesburg rather than misappropriating the successes of more accomplished people. 

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