DA calls for resignations over billing
Johannesburg - The Democratric Alliance caucus leader in the city of Johannesburg, Vasco da Gama, and DA finance spokesperson councillor Patrick Atkinson said in a joint statement that Johannesburg mayor Amos Masondo and committee member for finance councillor Parks Tau should resign immediately for trying to cover up the city's billing crisis.
They said: "Masondo and Tau have presided over what is fast becoming one of the most serious municipal crises facing the people of Johannesburg.
"Following the shocking revelations, Masondo and...Tau should resign immediately."
The DA accused Masondo and Tau for "not being candid" with council or councillors regarding the full extent of the problems faced by the city and said their "misplaced arrogance and "cool indifference" added to the plight of Johannesburg residents.
"They have repeatedly attempted to cover up the severity of the problem, setting deadlines for the resolution of this issue and missing these time and again."
Atkinson said that January ranked as possibly one of the most unfortunate months for the city's finances.
The DA had also apparently become aware of the billing saga last year, and had made efforts to meet Tau, but failed, he said.
"The DA introduced an urgency motion at the last council meeting of 2010. This was refused by the ANC administration as being not sufficiently urgent.
"The council subsequently disconnected over 40 000 households, many on the basis of incorrect billing. Many ratepayers have received grossly inflated bills and the city has demanded payment under threat of disconnection. This is pure extortion.
"Johannesburg has seen a significant slippage in its credit rating under the stewardship of Masondo and Tau. Another year of this toxic duo could have a fatal effect on the city."
The Mail & Guardian reported on Friday that Johannesburg's billing problem started five years ago, when a R208m tender to upgrade the system was awarded to "an inexperienced company whose directors have a record of high-level involvement with local and national government links and ANC politicians".
The newspaper reported that the city awarded the contract to Masana Technologies.
The contract price expanded to R496m and when the country cancelled it in September 2009, with R156m of the work unfinished, Masana went into liquidation.
Subcontractors, Dimension Date and IBM had to take over. This cost the city a further R306m, the report said, but the city has denied this, stating that it cost R170m more.
Masondo said at a media conference held by the Gauteng provincial ANC on Thursday that the billing problem could take up to two years to sort out.
He said that the city would continue cutting off services to those who did not pay their electricity bills, but would not "wrongfully" cut power.
Masondo said "significant progress" had been made in dealing with the situation.
He earlier drew widespread criticism for saying that the problem did not constitute a crisis.