Joburg Advocacy Group (JAG): A Small Breakthrough

Thursday, 24 February 2011

A Small Breakthrough

We're pleased to hear via the media that the report on the Joburg billing crisis requested by the Minister of Cooperative Governance has been completed, and is due to be handed over to both the department and the Public Protector. We applaud Minister Shiceko for ensuring that this report was, indeed, speedily produced, and hope that appropriate measures will now be taken to resolve the crisis.

It has, however, been extremely difficult for JAG to manage its campaign and to respond in an informed way to resident complaints and media queries, as we have received no formal feedback from any level of government about the billing crisis. Everything we know about the measures being taken to address the serious problems within the municipal billing system has had to be gleaned from the media.

We would therefore like to suggest that the city appoints an experienced communications company with crisis management experience to issue daily updates to both the media and to interested and affected parties should a situation like this arise in the future.

We would also like to suggest that the city conducts a weekly media briefing, followed by a Q&A session. This would help to keep residents and community groups informed about important issues, developing problems and the measures being taken to address these issues - and to mitigate against the kind of confusion that has arisen during the billing crisis campaign.

Also, as many residents are still in a desperate situation, and as there are still very concerning reports coming in from both individuals and businesses about how their complaints are being dealt with, we will continue to publicise specific complaints in order to illustrate the nature and extent of the situation. And we will, needless to say, be keeping a very watchful eye on developments.

We will also shortly be publishing an updated and more comprehensive version of the information leaflet for residents that we published in November, and we will make that available here as well as on our Facebook page. The new leaflet will provide information not only about avenues for redress within the government system and through such agencies as the Public Protector, but will also provide information on the legal steps residents can take should they need to. The leaflet will replace the current information leaflet and previous resident advisories.

NOTE: Regular updates are being posted on our Facebook page (Joburg Advocacy Group) and @JoburgAdvocacy on Twitter (billing crisis tweets are tagged #jbills).

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