Joburg Advocacy Group (JAG): December 2011

Friday, 23 December 2011

AN IMPORTANT MESSAGE

Dear supporters, network partners, associates, and friends in the media and civil society,

Over the past three years, the five founding members of the Joburg Advocacy Group (JAG) have devoted literally thousands of hours to voluntary advocacy work. As we're unable to continue to do so, we'll be operating on a limited, ad hoc basis only from now on. This especially as our voluntary work has increasingly been compromising our jobs, businesses and practices - and therefore our ability to earn a living.

As importantlytraditional advocacy work can only be effective within a system of governance that's at least notionally functional, which we believe ours no longer is.

The need for organised collective action in both the City of Joburg and the country as a whole is therefore becoming increasingly urgent.

In fact, we believe the socio-political change we so desperately need won't come from within the system of government, but only as a result of peaceful, direct action on the part of civil society. 

So the choice is simple, really - organise and act collectively to ensure that we can all live in a fair, just, efficient and equitable society that reflects the ideals expressed in our Constitution and functions within the rule of law, or live with the consequences of not doing so.

We therefore encourage residents to:
  • Become more actively involved in the day-to-day issues that affect them;
  • Organise collectively through residents' associations and community groups in order to address key challenges;
  • Establish issues-specific citizens' advocacy groups to deal with important governance, social justice and environmental issues;
  • Participate in and comment on debates in both the traditional media and the online media;
  • Write letters to editors, talk show hosts, ward councillors, oversight agencies and government departments to draw their attention to important issues and to call for appropriate responses and action;
  • Ask international advocacy groups like Avaaz to petition for action on important issues;
  • Set up your own petition for action on the Avaaz web site;
  • Use social networks to raise issues and share information;
  • Approach the producers of TV programmes like Carte Blanche, Special Assignment and 50/50 to investigate issues when your community doesn't have the resources to do so;
  • Approach newspapers, magazines, radio stations and web sites with a good investigative reputation to do the same;
  • Take legal action and/or lay charges for violations of the law if and as indicated; 
  • Organise and bring class action and/or ConCourt actions if and as indicated;
  • Lobby in every way possible for formalised processes to support citizen oversight of government;
  • Lobby for independent Mayoral elections;
  • Lobby for operational departments and entities to be run by suitably-skilled professionals, who can be held to account in terms of pre-determined key result areas;
  • Engage with ward councillors and hold them to account in terms of their mandate;
  • Insist that ward councillors convene mandatory community feedback meetings on a quarterly basis;
  • Call on ward and proportional representation councillors to request that residents' motions dealing with specific issues be placed on the council's agenda;
  • Use the resources available on this site to lobby for meaningful change; and, on a very practical level
  • Lobby for a change to smart metering throughout the city which, we believe, is the only way to resolve the current billing crisis will be resolved.

On specific issues, residents may find the following information useful:

1. If you have a billing dispute or a service delivery complaint that you've been unable to get resolved through the usual channels, please contact your ward councillor for assistance.

2. If you've been affected by the Joburg billing crisis, further information for residents and businesses is available in the JAG Billing Crisis Information Leaflet.

3. If you've experienced a services cut-off for any reason, further information is available in the JAG Cut-Off Campaign Information Leaflet.

NOTE: On 15 December, the South Gauteng High Court ruled that the City of Johannesburg cannot cut services to anyone who has not received an accurate and up-to-date bill, has a current billing dispute or hasn't received two weeks' notice of the intended cut-off. If you find the city is in violation of this ruling, please advise Schindlers Attorneys on coj.complaints@schindlers.co.za. Schindlers is the firm that brought the legal action on which the ruling is based, and will take appropriate action if the city violates it.

4. Also please feel free to browse the JAG Document Archive, which can be accessed here.

5. Details of the relevant city departments and oversight agencies to contact should you have a complaint or a dispute are listed in the sidebar.

Finally, special thanks are due to our supporters and network partners for their help and encouragement during the past three years. We couldn't have done what we've managed to do without it.

Wishing you all a happy and safe festive season