Skip to main content

A portfolio founded on friendship . 2019

I have often been asked why the Cape Town Aachen Cities partnership has been successful over many years – City of Cape Town leaders rate it as ‘the gold standard’ for how partnerships should be sustained and developed. There are undoubtedly many reasons, but I always return to the friendships which have developed and endured over the twenty years in which the cities have been together as the most important.

Friendships have been forged at all levels, but when friendships develop at the highest level, then the “trickle down” principle can really kick in. In recent years, I have enjoyed watching (and possibly at times prompting!) the evolution of a strong friendship-based partnership between the then Lord Mayor of Aachen, Marcel Philipp, and the Executive Mayor of Cape Town, Dan Plato. And when you enjoy such strong chemistry, you can even get away with some friendly ‘ambushing’ (all in a good cause) which happened during Lord Mayor Philipp’s visit to Cape Town in March 2019.

I had enjoyed developing the early editions of the City of Cape Town’s “Mayor’s Portfolio of Urban Sustainability” as a tool to profile the City’s projects through a sustainability lens. The portfolio, or MAPS as it is known, incentivises project managers to incorporate sustainability principles in their project planning and implementation, especially given its strong mayoral support base.

Muofhe Pedzai led the production of the third edition (Building resilience to urban challenges) which we thought to launch coincide with the Aachen Delegation’s visit. It seemed to me and others a good idea to share MAPS with our Aachen friends, potentially to produce a special edition showcasing the partnership and profiling projects in both Cape Town and Aachen which had meaning for the partnership and supported the Sustainable Development Goals. 

What better place than at the MAPS launch in March 2019 to plant the seed of this idea? Watering and tending the soil could then take place during the final engagements between our friends before their return to Aachen, ensuring germination.

At the launch, Mayor Plato diverted from his prepared speech to welcome our Aachen friends and emphasised the value of partnership. He spoke warm words of the publication to be launched and then asked an open question of his counterpart:  what about developing a special joint Mayors’ Portfolio of Urban Sustainability to celebrate the twenty years of the partnership?

Sitting close to the lectern beneath Mayor Plato’s gaze, it was perhaps not easy for the Lord Mayor to refuse such an invitation. But I like to think he was more than happy to accept, based both on the excellence of the product in question and perhaps even more strongly on the mutual friendships which had been forged between the cities’ leaders.

By the end of the following evening, the two Mayors had danced and jived to Duke Gumedes wonderful jazz ensemble and the soil was fertilised and well-watered!  The project had been born and the ‘MAPS infant’ (Mini-MAPS) will ‘be baptised’ in 2021.

A happy sequel to my story on friendship happened on my visit to Aachen with our Mayco Member, Marian Nieuwoudt and her husband Gerrit, in November 2019. We arrived in Aachen on a Sunday afternoon in time to visit the opening day of the Christmas market and to our joy, the Lord Mayor was one of the first familiar faces to welcome us to the market and entertain us over a glass of Glühwein on a chilly Sunday evening.

Opting to not to seek another term in the German local government elections of September 2020, the former ‘Lord Mayor Philipp’ is no longer serving in that capacity, but I’m pleased to call Marcel Philipp a good friend and I hope he will always be.

Stephen Granger

I was Head of Department of the Cape Metropolitan Council when the partnership was formed in 1999 – 2000 and enjoyed engaging with the Partnership Forum in that capacity in the early years. Ad hoc involvement in various projects associated with the partnership between 2003 and 2012, I visited Aachen for the first time in May 2008 while attending the Biodiversity COP in Bonn. I took on responsibility for the Partnership in 2016 as Manager, Major Projects within the Environmental Department at the City of Cape Town, facilitating visits from officials of the City of Aachen in November 2017 and the Lord Mayor in March 2019. I loved returning to Aachen in June 2018 and November 2019.