Black Like Me founder Herman Mashaba is leaving all his business interests in his wife’s hands and focusing on his campaign to become Johannesburg’s mayor.
“I’m giving this business to my wife to take over and I’m going to focus exclusively… making sure on a daily basis I talk to people of this country and city [Johannesburg] to make them understand we need short-term things to really get to long-term gain,” he told News24, talking about his campaign as the DA’s Johannesburg mayoral candidate.
But Mashaba said he would not make empty promises and asked voters not to give him or the Democratic Alliance a blank cheque.
“Those are the things I’m saying people must really be careful of. All these wild promises. If you make promises then I think you have to base them on facts.”
The DA announced on Saturday that Mashaba, who joined the party in 2014, was chosen to be its mayoral candidate for Johannesburg in this year’s local government elections.
Mashaba, a self-made man. has been in business for more than 30 years, working himself up the ladder.
Yearned for independence
He explained how he started his first job at Spar earning R175 month before becoming a sales rep and eventually starting his own business, Black Like Me, in 1985.
“I’ve always yearned for personal independence,” he said. “Because I did not have the education, I did not have the skills and experience, what I did, I committed myself to my work,” Mashaba said.
This had driven him, despite living under the apartheid government, to succeed in business.
Mashaba refers to himself as a privileged South African. “I have been privileged for the last 30 years.
“I’m not a poor person, but I was born poor and… that’s when I decided on a journey to ensure that I can create wealth for myself and my family.
“I can now pay back to society. I said to my family this is the time to pay back society.”
Although some might see Mashaba as a novice when it comes to politics, the businessman said he would run the City of Johannesburg like a business.
“Politics and business are the same thing. How do you divorce politics from business and civil society?” he asked.
How to be an active civil society
“Politics is about serving society… business is part and parcel of that. The city needs to collect money in order to execute and provide services. That is very important. The city needs to have the capacity and brain power to collect the money and the city, once it has collected this money, has got the responsibility to use this money efficiently, get value for it.”
Mashaba said part of his campaign would be about educating the people of Johannesburg on how to be an active civil society.
He wanted people to be vigilant and to hold government accountable, making sure it delivered services.
“Once politicians are aware they have terms they deliver… [I] don’t believe people have the patience to give the ANC another chance.
“Don’t give us [the DA] a blank cheque, give us terms, so that we know if we cannot deliver then next election we’re out.”
Mashaba said the DA would grow the economy and in turn would be able to build schools, clinics and infrastructure.
Base promises on fact
“If you make promises then I think you have to base them on facts.”
He questioned where political parties, which promised free housing, education and land, were going to get the money to deliver on these promises.
“I strongly believe people of Johannesburg are not going to be fooled by such rhetoric. There is a reason I have entered this race because DA is going to win, but DA is going to win on the basis of being realistic in what we promise,” Mashaba said.
“We mustn’t just do it for short-term political gain. It is difficult when you in a highly contested platform but I think honesty is going to lead to us eventually taking over, and once we take over we have to make sure we deliver on those promises.”