Residents of Coronationville, Sophiatown, and Brixton need urgent relief from water outages

Residents of Coronationville, Sophiatown, and Brixton (wards 69, 86, and 87) have been experiencing ongoing water outages since December that last for days on end with no response or solutions from anyone.

Our Constitution affirms the basic human right of access to safe drinking water. In the City of Johannesburg however, water runs freely in the roads rather than through your taps.

There are plenty of excuses from Rand Water throttling the system, Eskom load shedding, City Power’s unplanned outages due to its aging power grid, and the high levels of illegal development that goes on unchecked by the City. If only water and solutions flowed as plentiful as the explanations.

Frankly whatever the reason is, it does not excuse the fact that not only do residents have to go days without water in a pandemic that cites hand washing with clean water as a primary defence, but also Raheema Moosa Hospital, one of the busiest in the area, has to suffer. The City is barely able to get tankers and Jojo tanks to residents, leaving many in dire straits.

Johannesburg residents deserve access to this basic human right for which they already pay for. The DA will continue to put pressure on Mayor Geoff Makhubo and MMC Mpho Moerane to put aside their leadership spat and put residents first.

Joburg to let potholes increase to boost SUV and tyre industry

The DA has been reliably informed that the City of Johannesburg is planning to continue with its programme of encouraging new potholes and allowing existing ones to grow. With car and tyre sales at an all-time low due to increasing numbers of people working from home, it is felt that potholes represent a solid boost for local car and tyre sales. Industry representatives have apparently been in talks with City leadership to create an enabling environment that could see everyone driving SUVs with specialist off-road tyres.

Apparently the recent trend of compact, more efficient cars with small tyres has compounded the existing image problem of urban SUV drivers as wannabe Dakar Rally drivers. With Johannesburg’s reputation for world-class potholes, it won’t be long before monster trucks will be the preferred choice for a trip down to the local Tashas. The MMC for Transport in Joburg has welcomed the proposal, which will boost her plans to turn the mothballed asphalt plant into a themed water park.

Mayor Makhubo resigns to follow Mashaba to bright green pastures

The DA notes the resignation of Johannesburg Mayor Geoff Makhubo from both the Mayor’s Office and the ANC, to join his predecessor at ActionSA. Makhubo sent a hand-written letter to all parties in Council confirming that the weight of his testimony at the Zondo Commission had become too much to bear, and that recent factional battles for regional leadership were likely to go in favour of Mpho Moerane who commanded a far more lucrative portfolio. He apparently felt that there was no better place for political castaways than ActionSA, whose bright colours represent his favourite putting green at the Leeuwkop Country Club.

Upgraded Golden Harvest Park facility ready for hand over to the community

Golden Harvest Park is an important green space in Northwold, and is regarded one of Johannesburg City Parks and Zoo’s (JCPZ)as the flagship parks. Yesterday I visitd the park to check on the recent upgrades ahead of the handover later this week.

I am pleased to report that the project has hit all of its targets, including a brand-new outside gym, an upgraded children’s play area, a soccer field, ablution facilities, paving at the JCPZ depot, the rehabilitation of the bridge, and the removal of the old dilapidated Mayoral Lapa.

The park has seen many improvements from a major reduction in crime incidents, to the launch of a Park Run that has seen over 1000 participants joining in.

These achievements have been made possible through the contribution of the community and many stakeholders such as the residents associations, the Friends of Golden Harvest Park, JMPD, SAPS, and local private security companies.

We hope to see many local residents enjoying the use of the new facilities available at the park and taking care of them through shared ownership. The DA will continue to work towards ensuring that the residents of Ward 101 are afforded a safe and welcoming environment to live, work, and play in.

March Council meeting highlights

Council sat over a marathon two-day session last week to consider 112 reports. The majority of these were related to increases on rates and tariffs, which were detailed in our statement on 25 March. Other noteworthy reports are detailed below.

The DA opposed a report which claimed to accept a R90 million donation from Nike SA for an extension of their lease on two City-owned properties in Klipspruit, Soweto. This was originally granted as a lease to Nike SA for the development of a sports facility, known as Shapa Soweto. While we welcome the continued development of this facility, its acclaimed sports training programmes, and the planned integration with the new Klipspruit Sports Centre, this process goes entirely against the Municipal Finance Management Act which clearly stipulates how these land transactions are supposed to happen. The rule of law cannot be sacrificed for laziness
on the part of City officials, and Council must be made aware of all the terms and conditions of this lease.
– Cllr Belinda Kayser-Echeozonjoku, SMMC for Community Development.

The report for the completion of the Alexandra Automotive Hub and revitalisation of the Marlboro-Alexandra industrial precinct was approved with substantial input from the DA. We will now finally see the establishment of a steering committee to address the numerous challenges facing this precinct, such as abandoned factories, lack of law enforcement, illegal land occupation, and other factors which deter investment. The completion of
the Hub will pave the way for third parties to take over management of the facility and implement proper training programmes to enable growth in this important sector for emerging SMMEs.
– Cllr Dave Dewes, Section 79 Economic Development Member.

Seven years after the landmark Constitutional Court ruling the City’s new Informal Trading Policy was finally brought to Council. The DA opposed this policy as it differs substantially from the version which was widely accepted by all stakeholders in October 2019, and had it sent back to the Section 79 Committee. There was no accountability from the ANC as to why it had taken more than a year to come to Council. The draft policy lacks the collaborative management model put forward by trader associations, the ability of groups like City
Improvement Districts to manage informal trading in their areas, a more humane consequence system in place so that traders don’t have their goods confiscated for a first infraction, and for management of both street and market trading to be housed in one unit to ensure consistency. Informal traders are desperate for proper management and guidelines which work for all parties involved, but this should not come at the expense of conditions which have already been agreed upon.
– Cllr Bonile Fandesi, Section 79 Economic Development Member.

The much-awaited Traffic Pointsman report came to Council, but as usual did not follow due process and was lacking real details, so the DA voted to make sure that it went back to the  Section 79 Committee so that all faults can be fixed. We support this programme as it brings much needed stability to traffic during rush hour and when traffic lights are out. However, any potential service provider has to show proof of securing R100 million in sponsorship over five years, and the City must be able to account for this to residents as the City and
therefore residents will be responsible for the cost of training the pointsmen. Residents deserve to have this programme in place and the pointsmen deserve fair and safe working conditions with appropriate compensation. – Cllr Michael Sun, SMMC for Public Safety

The DA opposed the approval of the Greater Lanseria Masterplan which was not properly presented nor did it have any of the details which are required for the approval of such a significant development. The DA supports this development but like the Gautrain promises to be a vanity project which connected individuals benefit from instead of residents who have to foot the bill. We do not know how much the City will have to pay towards the project, which threatens to take vital funds away from much-needed upgrades to the City’s existing, aging power and water networks. It will also require the City to lift the urban edge which is in place as
part of the City’s Spatial Development Framework, and for us to undermine the SDF requires real evidence. There is no indication of the feasibility for this project, public consultation, the readiness of the other three municipalities (one in another province) and their contribution to the project. Projects which boost economic development and create jobs are desperately needed, but public money is very limited and we cannot afford to waste it on vanity projects. – Cllr Reuben Masango, SMMC for Development Planning

A report to resurrect the Joburg Bakery Project was pushed through by the ANC despite objections from the DA. This failed project was originally started by the Tau administration under the umbrella of the so-called Blue Economy, and aimed to provide 50 co-operatives with containers of installed bakery equipment and supplies to run the operations. There was no project feasibility done and ridiculous items like imported mango flour were never going to be sustainable. It was clearly designed to secure votes in the 2016 election by providing a neverended financial lifeline to the politically-connected co-operatives. The DA Administration terminated the project and initiated a forensic investigation into the co-operatives. Now the ANC are about to spend R14.3 million on a project where only six of the 18 beneficiaries were revealed to be operational. – Cllr Mpho Phalatse, Section 79 Health and Social Development Member

Council was requested to approve the acting arrangement of the Executive Director of Community Development. This despite the fact that the acting arrangement had already expired. The real story behind the scenes was that Council had approved the appointment of Philisiwe Tau (the wife of Parks Tau) for the position, despite her benefitting from financial deals with Regiments Capital which in turn secured lucrative contracts with the City through Parks Tau and the current mayor, Geoff Makhubo. The DA naturally opposed her
appointment. Philisiwe Tau however did not start on 1 December and is still not in the position. It is alleged that the previous City Manager refused to accede to her demands for an inflated salary – a conflict which contributed to City Manager’s early exit through a ‘negotiated settlement’. The acting Executive Director was only fourth on the list of candidates, despite his excellent performance in the position. – Cllr Nonhlanhla Sifumba, Section 79 Community Development Member

MMC Moekena finally punished for fraud and nepotism

The City of Johannesburg Council has confirmed the guilty verdict handed down against Councillor Mally Moekena, the MMC for Public Safety, for violating the Code of Conduct through fraud and nepotism. She has been suspended for one month without pay. The Ethics Committee originally recommended dismissal from Council, but Gauteng MEC for Co-operative Governance, Lebogang Maile, decided that his comrade should get off with a lighter sentence.

The fact that the decisions of a municipal council can be overruled by another sphere of government points to a fundamental weakness in the laws that regulate local government.

Councillor Moekena was referred to the Ethics Committee in 2018 for employing her niece into a key position for which she was not qualified.

As a MMC, Councillor Moekena’s performance has been dismal. She has displayed a complete lack of interest in her portfolio, with JMPD and EMS failing to meet key targets such as by-law enforcement and clamping down on drunken and reckless driving. Probably her greatest failing has been the inability to buy new fire engines when there are currently only about four working fire engines to serve the residents of Johannesburg. Even with R200 million allocated for new vehicles, she wasn’t even able to start the procurement process.

We still believe that fraud and nepotism should be punished with full dismissal, and that Moekena should not be allowed to return to the position of MMC for Public Safety given her poor performance and lack of integrity. The Mayor needs to fire her and appoint a new MMC who will put the residents of Johannesburg first, and bring much needed stability to a vital portfolio.

Joburg residents should oppose high increases for rates and tariffs

Yesterday in Council the ANC tabled the draft Property Rates Policy and By-law for 2021/22, along with increases for water, electricity, sewerage, and all other City services. Most of these are far above inflation and ignore the dire economic situation which we are in. As these proposed increases are out for public comment, we encourage all residents to write in and oppose the increases.

Many property owners have had to give discounts amounting to billions of rands to tenants that have been without income. These same property owners still have to meet their own costs of doing business such as bond payments, rates and utility charges. At the same time there has been no relief coming from the City.

According to the South African Property Owners Association, since 2008, rates have increased by a cumulative 318%, while CPI has only increased by 78% over the same period.

Even for those who are not property owners, electricity and water tariffs continue to climb even above the increases by suppliers such as Eskom and Rand Water. This hits not only the most vulnerable in our society who must commit scarce resources to these essentials, but even the middle class who are being squeezed beyond their ability to pay.

In a recent Business Day op-ed, Neva Makgetla, a senior economist at Trade & Industrial Policy Strategies, pointed out that over the past decade Eskom’s tariffs increased by approximately 160%, yet that of municipalities increased by 300%.

The DA opposed the City’s Adjustment Budget in February as the ANC increased expenditure by R300 million, most of it on paying staff who have been sitting at home, and for a new cadre recruitment drive in the Mayor’s Office. We argued that this money should instead be spent on rates and tariffs relief for residents.

Section 74(2) of the Municipal Systems Act says that tariffs must be in proportion to the cost of the services, and a 2003 circular from the South African Local Government Association states that tariffs should be linked to the proportional use of a service. The flat tariffs for sewerage and refuse removal go directly against this.

This is especially true for those living in apartments or complexes that were declared ‘multi-unit dwellings’ by the City which promptly doubled sewerage charges and sent bills for backdated amounts. Some body corporates were hit with multi-million rand bills.

The increases include 2% for property rates, 6.8% for water, 6.8% for sewerage, 9-18% for electricity, R200 charge for pre-paid residential and R400 for pre-paid business, 4.3% for refuse collection, R50 charge for recycling in ‘affluent areas’, and R276 pre-termination notice charge. All of these amounts exclude VAT.

The increase in the charge for pre-termination notices are especially galling and the charge should be scrapped entirely. Residents already pay a fortune in tariffs and other charges and the City should absorb this. The contractors they use to deliver these pre-termination notices are making a fortune off the back of residents.

We see that the City is sneaking in the R200 charge for pre-paid customers, which we oppose. The City should be encouraging everyone to move to pre-paid, not penalising them. The R50 recycling charge should be a rebate for residents to encourage recycling – again we should not be penalising positive behaviour.

Johannesburg residents deserve quality services for the money they pay the City, and this is not reflected in the increases which the ANC are putting forward. We encourage all residents to write to and oppose the unfair increases. There should be 0% increases so that residents and businesses can use all available funds to invest and spend on economic activity which can restore the Johannesburg economy.

DA-initiated clinics in Bophelong and Florida close to completion

A recent committee oversight visit has confirmed that the much-needed Bophelong and Florida Clinics which were started by the DA, are close to completion.

Bophelong Clinic was started in 2017 and will provide 18 consulting rooms, antenatal care, HIV/Aids and TB testing services. Florida Clinic was started in 2016 and will have the same facilities. Residents will also be able to collect chronic medication which will cut down on waiting times in long queues in distant clinics, thanks to the Central Chronic Medicine Dispensing and Distribution programme and a partnership with the Cipla Foundation.

Delays have been due community unrest over employment on the projects and sewer upgrades. Florida Clinic was also delayed from non-performance by the main contractor, but the DA made sure that they were replaced.

The oversight visit also included the Fleurhof Empowerment Zone which is supposed to provide skills development for the local community and agricultural co-operatives. Unfortunately the facility has not been maintained, lacks running water, and there is no electricity. We will ensure that this issue is escalated so that the local community is not deprived of the opportunities from this facility.

The DA will continue to push for clinics and health facilities that are close to residents and can provide the quality services which residents deserve.

Active citizenry in Eldorado Park combatting vandalism of streetlights

I commend the residents of Eldorado Park for being active citizens in the fight against vandalism in their suburb, which is robbing them of working streetlights and making crime worse.

Residents in Ward 18 have had several meetings with City Power who have told residents that they will not fix streetlights in Eldorado Park because they will be vandalised shortly after being repaired. Residents have responded by electing representatives from each extension to organise street patrols which work closely with community organisations and the local SAPS to combat this problem.

Despite this proactive attempt to fix one of the problems in their neighbourhood and contribute towards better public safety, City Power are still refusing to engage with residents to find solutions to streetlight vandalism. I have written to the MMC for Environment and Infrastructure Services, Cllr Mpho Moerane, to meet with residents to acknowledge their determination and to assist in finding a solution together. I await his response, intervention, and will share this with residents.

One resident commented to me that “there are no proper services in Eldos – everything is a temporary fix”, which sadly I have to agree with. Over the past two weeks I’ve had to follow up on issues where contractors come out to fix something but either due to poor workmanship or vandalism they are back in a few days to fix it again.

The DA will continue to assist residents of Eldorado Park to receive the services that they deserve, and will provide effective representation until a new Ward Councillor is elected i the forthcoming by-election.

Klipspruit West and Eldorado Park residents left without water for over 48 hours

Residents of Klipspruit West and Eldorado Park Extension 9 were without running water from 11:00 on 15 March for over 48 hours. Learners lost valuable school time and local businesses lost revenue due to a lack of care from Joburg Water.

There has been no maintenance on a leaking water pipe which supplies these areas, compounded by the constant power outages that residents and businesses have to endure. It took 24 hours for Joburg Water to dispatch a water tanker and a single Jojo tank to an area of Klipspruit West, which was insufficient to address the needs of this area.

Joburg Water cannot give a clear answer as to when a permanent solution to the problem will be provided, which violates the human rights of residents. The DA through the Ward 11 Branch will be supporting the community’s calls for vital upgrades to their water network, and urgent repairs to the Nancefield sewer pump station which is is in desperate need of maintenance and repair.

Residents deserve a caring City that puts their needs first and delivers quality services which respect their human rights.