Joburg Advocacy Group (JAG): Misplaced Optimism

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Misplaced Optimism

Well, fellow Joburg residents, it seems our optimism about local, provincial and national government working together to solve the Joburg billing crisis was misplaced.

After we started our billing crisis campaign on 14 January, there was silence for about a week. This despite the fact that we'd called on the provincial MEC for Local Government to institute an official investigation into the billing crisis in terms of the Municipal Systems Act, which he never even bothered to acknowledge.

Then the Minister of Cooperative Development confirmed there was a serious problem with Joburg's billing, but the Mayor and senior city officials soon came out and denied that this was a crisis (approximately 90,000 affected residents would disagree).

The following week, the Minister committed to an investigation into the crisis and the new billing system that has cost taxpayers approximately R80 million.Then the ANC called a summit of all the mayors in Gauteng to discuss widespread billing problems throughout the province and the Chair of the Finance Committee for the city said on a radio show on MixFM 93.8 community radio that anyone with unresolved complaints could mail him and he would get them resolved (he only problem with this is that his mailbox is always full) .

We've heard nothing since.

We see mouths moving, but we don't see ANY action either to assist desperate residents or to resolve the deeper issues at play here.

So it's up to civil society organisations and residents themselves to continue to take PEACEFUL DIRECT ACTION in order to get this and other pressing issues resolved.

Please have a look at our latest advisory for residents for further information.

Also, please be advised that there is a billing protest planned for 18 February at 08:30. This will take place outside Thuso House, on the corner of Simmonds and Stiemens Streets in Braamfontein (opposite the Joburg Theatre, previously the Civic Theatre). Note: this is the billing queries entrance and not the main entrance in Jorissen Street. Limited parking is available at the theatre or nearby at Constitution Hill. Marshalls will be on duty and a memorandum will be handed over to the city by "irate" city councillor, David Dewes.

While we understand that most residents are working people, we urge you to ask your employer for the morning off so that you can support this important democratic process.

It's easy to complain, but unless we all take continuous, meaningful direct action, nothing is going to change.

And don't forget to keep up the pressure on Joburg Connect, senior city officials, the Public Protector and the National Energy Regulator (NERSA). Further details are available on our latest advisory note and also on the information leaflet we published on 14 November.

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