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An observer
 
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A Class Action Against the Johannesburg Metro Council

25 September 2012, 09:50
I think it is time that the residents of Johannesburg start a debate about bringing a class action against the City Council of the Johannesburg Metropole. On a daily basis, peoples' lives and property are being put at risk by the City Council. On a daily basis, we find traffic lights mafunctioning, potholes the size of craters on our roads, and speed bumps, unmarked and dangerous. These infringements put people's lives at risk. I can cite many personal experiences where, if it had not been for my own  and other citizen's vigilance, and actions of residents, disasters were averted.

These are just 3 of the many, many inactions and sheer bad management by the City. The lack of service delivery is appalling, and at many different levels. Water pipe bursts are not dealt with timeously and as a result hundreds of thousands of litres of water are lost, and we have to pay for this. Last year, the City had over R 180 million of unaccounted water losses, and for which the ratepayers have to pay.

Public transport is just about non-existent, ill-planned and not user friendly, and bureacracy prevents the City from attracting new investment to the City. The inner city of Johannesburg is a cesspool of unemployed, and crime-ridden. The inner city rehabilitation plans have failed miserably. Safety and security are left to the devices of the individual residents, and their expensive security companies. The City lacks a billing system that works for them and the residents. The City, in some months is only able to collect one third of the debt owing to them, if one assumes that their billing process is accurate.

The truth is the managers of the City are simply not able to cope, but where does that leave the residents of the City?

The problem as I see it is that this situation is going to lead to a position where residents become accepting of this bungling, just as we have come to accept the high crime rate and lack of medical care (and many others).

Accepting of non-delivery of services is not acceptable. When you go to a supermarket do you accept that the floors are dirty, the shelves are disorganised, that the products you are accustomed to buying, are not there? No. You demand service for that is what you are paying for. In the case of a supermarket, you will soon change your supermarket for another that does deliver your product in an acceptabe way.

Well that is where the nub is. In a supermarket you have a choice between products, service and delivery. When it comes to a City, you cannot change location, because it is inconvenient, you cannot change product, because it is common to all, and you cannot change service because the City prohibits competition. The City has you by the proverbials.

Let us examine the role of local government, in terms of the Constitution. Local government is meant to uphold the Constitution and provide South Africans with services and infrastructure that preserve their safety, security, education and other requirements, and in an unbiased way. The City of Johannesburg is clearly not operating according to this mandate.
What will be the result if citizens don't take action now?

In purely financial terms, the City is bankrupt. That's right, I said, "Bankrupt". Their current liablities exceed their current assets by one and a half times. That means that of all of those poor sobs out there that supply services and products to the City, only one third of them is likely to be paid. Having now entered the realm of the bankrupt, what is the likely scenario for the immediate future. It is all likely to go further downhill from here. Expect a deterioration of services. Expect that the City will soon not be able to pay their bloated employee salary bill. Expect chaos, unless you and I take some action.

You might wonder why I don't suggest that we wait until the next election and just "outvote" them. My assessment is that, by 2014, the whole exercise will be pointless. The City will be so bereft of resources by that time that a new government will simply be left with too many liabilities and too many obstacles to overcome to have any meaningful redress to what is now transpiring.

That is why citizens must take action now. Before it is too late.

If we wait for 2015, the City will have descended to a chaotic state where us as residents will become responsible for all service delivery and infrastructural improvements. As difficult as things are now, by then, they will be 10 times worse.

The biggest challenge for Johannesburg residents right now is, how do we enforce our city managment to fulfill their obligations to us the residents.

 But how do we collectively organise this? A class action is expensive and takes a lot of time. Where does the money come from? Will you donate to this? I certainly will, but we need to get some "big guns" from the corporate sector to step up to change the system. Collectively we can do this but who is in and who is out?

Unless we take some action to demonstrate against this malgovernment we will go down a spiral of cascading faeces.

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