City of old: Joburg faces mammoth task of clearing R300bn infrastructure backlog - with only R7.7bn

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City Power workers collect bundles of illegal electricity collections in Kliptown.
City Power workers collect bundles of illegal electricity collections in Kliptown.
Gallo Images/Fani Mahuntsi
  • There is an infrastructure backlog of R300 billion in Johannesburg, but a capital budget provision of just R7.7 billion.
  • City Power alone needs R26 billion to fix its broken infrastructure.
  • The multi-party government is looking into other ways to deal with the backlog, including public-private partnerships and grant funding.

With mounting concerns over the state of the Johannesburg's infrastructure, the City of Johannesburg needs R300 billion to clear its infrastructure backlog - but it must do so with a capital budget provision of just R7.7 billion.

Mayor Mpho Phalatse said the largest portion of the capital budget - R1.2 billion - had been set aside for City Power.

"City Power requires R26 billion, but we can allocate a fraction of that - R1.2 billion in [capital expenditure], and R1.6 billion in [operational expenditure] - in this financial year."

In 2018, then-mayor Herman Mashaba said the infrastructure backlog was estimated to be around R170 billion. The costs have doubled in just four years as the ageing infrastructure crumbles.

READ | Guptas, Ace Magashule and Duduzane Zuma linked to Jagersfontein in Zondo testimony

In the multi-party government's Golden Report, a review of the commitments by the City for service delivery, Phalatse said the money would go to the refurbishment, upgrade and security of the distribution network to reduce power outages and strengthen the utility for the onboarding of independent power producers (IPPs).

She added fixing the electrical crisis in the city was important to "building a business-friendly city".

Phalatse said the multi-party government was looking at other ways to deal with the backlog, including public-private partnerships and grant funding.

"It is clear that we need to prioritise where the residents' money goes, and the budget speaks to this with [capital expenditure] and [operational expenditure] budgets being heavily geared towards City Power, Joburg Water and the Joburg Roads Agency."

Nickolaus Bauer, the spokesperson for the Environment and Infrastructure Service Department (EISD) in the metro, said the backlogs at the department came from City Power which needed R26 billion in infrastructure repairs, Joburg Water, which needed R20 billion, and Pikitup, which needed R700 million.

READ | Tembisa protest: Damage caused by protesting residents estimated to be millions of rands

City Power and Joburg Water need the most urgent repairs to their infrastructure, which will cost R12 billion and R8 billion, respectively.

He was adamant the City had enough budget to fix the critical infrastructure that needed urgent repairs.

Said Bauer: "We are confident that all EISD entities have the funds necessary to meet all urgent outstanding infrastructure repairs. There is a schedule each entity has formulated that deals with the most pressing infrastructure issues in the current financial year."

Phalatse said as the budget needed to fix the infrastructure could not fill the gaps, "so we will forever be playing catch up".

Mpho Phalatse, DA Jhb mayoral candidate
Mpho Phalatse.

"So, we are approaching development finance institutions and finalising our public-private partnership framework with National Treasury so that there can be direct investment in infrastructure projects. We are also looking at unfunded mandates in order to get the provincial and national spheres of government to play their part.

The mayor said, in part, the increase in the backlog was due to the pandemic "which meant we only had 50% of the City's staff complement working at any time, including those at the coalface of service delivery".

"This is due to them not being classified as essential workers. It was only in April that 100% of personnel back on the ground.”

Meanwhile, infighting in the multi-party government could come to a head this week with the ordinary sitting of the council set to take place on Wednesday.

Fractions within the coalition were made clear at the beginning of the month when speaker Vasco da Gama was voted out in a motion of no confidence.

After the motion, smaller parties within the coalition announced they would vote in a motion of no confidence against the mayor at the council's next sitting this week.



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