Joburg Advocacy Group (JAG): December 2009

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Season's Greetings

Wishing all of our supporters and associates a safe and peaceful festive season, and all of the good things that life has to offer in 2010.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Add Your Voice

Please consider signing the petition for a real and meaningful deal on carbon emissions at the UN climate summit in Copenhagen.

Thirteen million people from around the world have already signed, making this the biggest petition in history.

Now young people of all nationalities are reading out the names of EACH ...AND EVERY SUPPORTER at the summit venue as the crucial talks threaten to deadlock. This is a very important time in history, and climate change is the greatest challenge humanity has ever faced - please add your voice.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Statement from Civil Society Organisations on Acid Mine Drainage

The Federation for a Sustainable Environment, supported by 36 civil society organisations including JAG, has issued a statement calling on the South African government to engage with civil society on the urgent issue of acid mine drainage in the Witwatersrand Mining Basin.

The statement calls for disclosure of all documentation regarding the issue, much of which has not been released into the public domain, and also for urgent action dedicated to finding a sustainable and just solution to the problem.

We strongly support this statement, which you can read in full here.
Image: "Acid Mine Drainage on the West Rand Gold Fields" courtesy of Earthlife Africa.
Click through to Earthlife's web site to read its Acid Mine Drainage Fact Sheet 1 and Acid Mine Drainage Fact Sheet 2.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Now a Water Supply Crisis Looms

If you think acid mine drainage (AMD) and sewage in the rivers will never affect you directly, think again.

In a statement issued on 6 December, the South African Revenue Protection Association reports that South Africa's bulk water infrastructure is in danger of collapse.

Four hundred "infrastructure assets" that supply raw bulk water are decades old and are leading to contamination of water sources. And that's without the possibility of processed AMD being pumped into the drinking water system or the risk of major reservoirs being contaminated by sewage and heavy metals in the polluted river system.

Worse still, economic pressures have forced the Department of Water and Environmental Affairs to scale down its capital spending on water schemes and infrastructure refurbishment radically. In the next three years, it will receive only R4.8bn of the R6bn it requires from Treasury for infrastructure refurbishment, although it has been assured of R6.1bn to expand regional bulk infrastructure.

A local government water and sanitation audit report released earlier this year also showed showed that 85% of South Africa's waste water treatment works had a "limited remaining useful life", while 90% of water treatment works were dilapidated.

In the meantime, water quality in KwaZulu Natal, Mpumalanga, North West and the Northern Cape is now below acceptable health levels (source: SARPA Journal, 6 December 2009).

Monday, 7 December 2009

Be Kind

There is so much division, aggression and pain in our city. Be kind to someone today, and ask them to pass it on ...

"BE KIND ... for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle."
~ Philo of Alexandria

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Fiddling While Joburg Burns

We've all heard the story of how the despot emperor Nero "fiddled while Rome burned". Recent reports on the crisis of governance in the City of Johannesburg cannot help but bring this story to mind.

This past weekend alone, Mail and Guardian reported that the city has an operational deficit of R520 million, that it has had to divert R1 billion from the city's already over-stretched budget into the completion of the Soccer City stadium because of ballooning costs, and that it has failed to collect an estimated R10 billion in unpaid municipal accounts (read the whole story here).

DA councillor and finance committee member Don Forbes is quoted as saying that the city is "commercially insolvent", as its liabilities exceed its assets.

Worse still ...

Yesterday, The Times reported that, despite this parlous situation, and despite the fact that the city has written off R2.8 billion in debt this year (10% of its 2009/2010 budget), Mayor Amos Masondo has just "led a 16-member delegation on a costly four-day trip to four countries (India, Vietnam, China and Russia, if you can believe it) ... as part of a 'study tour' aimed at bolstering 'service delivery' ". This is reportedly one of many such trips taken by members of the mayoral committee in the past six months (read the whole story here).

We would like to suggest that the mayor GETS REAL and leads a delegation around his own distressed and decaying city. Instead of listening to "experts" in far-flung countries, we suggest that he takes the trouble to listen to the people he is elected and paid to serve. No-one knows the issues better than they do or has a better idea of what is needed to fix the many problems that affect their everyday lives.

We would also like to suggest that President Jacob Zuma GETS REAL and intervenes directly in this situation. Joburg is the country's economic hub and the face South Africa presents to the international investment community. More importantly, millions of people live within the boundaries of the metro, and it simply cannot be allowed to slide into chaos.

Unfortunately, several letters that Joburg Advocacy Group has sent to Mayor Amos Masondo begging him to take action on governance in the city have simply been ignored. A letter sent to the President asking for the same was acknowledged, but then forwarded to the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs where, needless to say, it has disappeared into a black hole.

We need the people of the city to take action and to start making their voices heard on this issue. It's only together that we can turn this situation around - and every voice counts.

Please e-mail President Zuma on, and ask him to intervene in the crisis of governance in the City of Johannesburg as a matter of urgency. Cut and paste the following text if you'd like to use it:

Dear President Zuma,

As a resident of the City of Johannesburg, I am deeply concerned about the crisis of governance in the city. Daily reports in the newspapers show that it is widespread, and neither the Mayor nor the Premier of Gauteng are responding to calls by the community to address the situation.

I support the campaign being run by the Joburg Advocacy Group ( to call for your urgent assistance.

Johannesburg is the country's economic hub and the face it presents to the international investment community. More importantly, millions of people live within the boundaries of the metro, and it simply cannot be allowed to slide into chaos.

We need your direct intervention, Mr President. Please step up to the plate!

Thank you and kind regards,
[Insert your name]

Do it, folks - DO IT NOW! And join our Facebook Group to become part of the discussion about good governance in the City of Johannesburg.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

A River of Filth

The Jukskei/Braamfontein Spruit river system, which originates in the city and runs through both the eastern suburbs and Bruma Lake, should ideally be a safe and healthy body of water that could, amongst other things, be used for neighbourly recreation.

The truth is that the system, which flows on from Bruma Lake through Alexander and on to Hartebeespoort Dam, is a river of filth that is safe for no-one. Worse still, it is one of the main sources of irrigation for 12 000 hectares of agricultural land in Mpumalanga and Limpopo, and joins up with other river systems that cross over into Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Botswana.

The Jukskei is highly polluted with both litter and a wide variety of contaminants, and the results of any routine testing that may be taking place (although this is unlikely to be happening) are not being made public. One of the most significant contaminants is raw sewage, which originates mainly from neglected and abandoned buildings in the city centre.

The Jukskei River Catchment Area Management Forum, which works in the Bruma Lake area, recently tested the E.coli level in the lake itself, and found this to be 2,4 million colony forming units (CFUs)/100ml. In the USA, the standard set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for the recreational use of water resources is 125 CFU/100ml, and no sample should exceed 235 CFU/100ml (source: State of Indiana). Water in which levels are higher than these pose a very real threat to the community, especially in terms of water-borne diseases like cholera.

What is to be done?

Simply put, the community needs to get involved, and needs to work with the relevant government agencies to address this deeply concerning situation.
For our part, we've been privileged to be asked to participate in the WET-Africa (Waterway and Environment Transformation) initiative, a multi-party community-based programme that aims "to restore the critical and endangered rivers of Africa to health from source to sea".
WET-Africa has recently applied for an international grant to fund a major remediation, rehabilitation and community development project along the Jukskei River and, if funding comes through, we'll play a small part in making that happen. Local government, the Green Scorpions, residents' associations, community groups, taxpayers' unions, and interested and affected parties will all be invited to participate in the process, and to share in the knowledge resources that will be generated by the project.
We'll have a response to the funding proposal in early February, and we'll keep you informed of progress right here.
Image courtesy of WET-Africa: Solid waste in the Jukskei after a storm, 15 March 2009