Amos Masondo, former Mayor of Johannesburg

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Amos Masondo
Mayor of Johannesburg
By Andrew Stevens

12 January 2008: A veteran of the anti-apartheid struggle, Amos Masondo is the unified city of Johannesburg’s first elected mayor. Voted in to a second term of office in 2006, Masando is prioritising economic growth and tackling the AIDS crisis, as well as looking forward to hosting the 2010 FIFA World Cup. The mayor has been short-listed for the 2008 World Mayor Award.

Update: Mpho Parks Tau is the current Mayor of Johannesburg

Born in 1953 and schooled in the Soweto township, Masondo took part as a student activist in the anti-Afrikaans disturbances of 1972 and was a member of Soweto cell of the African National Congress’ military wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe (‘Spear of the Nation’) from 1974. The group waged an urban guerrilla campaign against the apartheid state from 1961 until 1990. Masondo was jailed for anti-apartheid activities between 1975 and 1981 (held alongside the group’s co-founder Nelson Mandela at the infamous Robben Island maximum security prison). On his release he joined the General Allied Workers’ Union, becoming a full-time organiser in 1983, though he was placed in detention once more in 1985 under the country’s emergency regulations introduced to deal with increasing unrest.

Masondo was also a founder member of the United Democratic Front, a broad non-racial coalition against apartheid. On his release in 1989, he became regional secretary for COSATU, the trade union umbrella organisation and the ANC’s regional election coordinator. He retains influence as a prominent member of the ANC in his own right, holding national and provincial office. Masondo was elected to the Gauteng provincial legislature, serving as executive member for health and unsuccessfully contesting the election for premier in 1999 (but appointed political adviser to the victor), before becoming Johannesburg mayor in December 2000.

Under the apartheid system, Johannesburg, South Africa’s largest city, was divided into 11 local authority zones corresponding to racial lines, with the four majority black areas receiving the least resources. A city council was established in 1995, with a city manager hired in 1999 as part of an attempt to restructure city governance and address financial deficits in poorer zones. The city remains hugely divided on racial and economic lines, with the affluent white suburbs of the centre and north contrasted by the black townships to the south. The elected mayor and council system was introduced by Gauteng provincial government in 2000, with Masondo chosen by the ANC to become the first occupant of the post. In 2006, the city council restructured its administrative divisions once more, a reduction from 11 to seven and merged the posts of mayor and city manager. The city will host the 2010 FIFA World Cup, with the winning bid being declared in 2004. The city manager, reporting to the mayor, is responsible for overseeing preparation work for the tournament.

Elected to a second term of office in March 2006, Masondo has identified six priorities for his new term – economic growth and job creation; health and community development; housing and services; a safe, clean and green city; a well-governed and managed city; HIV and AIDs. In 2007 Masondo became co-president of United Cities and Local Governments.

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