The new City of Johannesburg (CoJ) multi-party government announced on Wednesday ambitious plans to turn around service delivery in the metro, with its “gold start programme.”
Johannesburg mayor Mpho Phalatse kicked off the conference by acknowledging residents’ frustrations with poor, inefficient services, dilapidated and crumbling infrastructure and rampant crime.
Mayoral committee members (MMCs) responsible for various portfolios in Johannesburg shed light on how they are going to rebuild the broken City of Gold.
Environment and infrastructure
MMC for Environment Infrastructure Service Department (EISD) Micheal Sun is in charge of among other things, fixing Johannesburg’s erratic power supply. He said Honeydew was one of the worst-hit areas for cable theft and illegal connections.
“There are constant power and water outages in Johannesburg, refuse is not getting picked up timeously or at all. Cable theft and illegal connections cost the city R3.6 billion annually,” said Sun.
Sun would ideally like that R3.6 billion to fund other power projects that will reduce the city’s dependency on Eskom.
Sun’s team has identified hotspots for cable theft and illegal connections where CCTV cameras will be installed.
“The city is going after cable thieves… Joburg is the economic hub of the country, we can’t be without services,” he said.
Community Development MMC Ronald Harris highlighted problems with homeless people living in public spaces, such as parking lots and parks.
His department is launching a “7/11 boots on the ground” initiative. “Senior management will be out of the office and on the ground to ensure these public spaces and facilities are useable,” said Harris.
“We need to ensure that joggers and commuters are not harassed by criminals.”
Health and social development
Health and Social Development MMC Franco de Lange said 50% of people in the city don’t have enough to feed their families.
De Lange’s department is working to increase small scale farming and roof-top produce. “There is land for small scale farming. We are also looking to facilitate rooftop farming,” he said.
Safety and security
Safety and Security MMC David Tembe’s team has begun work to reclaim hijacked buildings in the city.
Tembe, who is a former JMPD chief, has established a multi-disciplinary unit to deal with a wide array of problems plaguing the metro, including illegal electricity connections, dumping, and human trafficking.
Tembe said he has been given a budget to restore service delivery to the inner-city precinct.
“The city is suffering the most in the inner city due to crime. I have been given enough funds to have more than 1,000 cops in the city. More than 700 officers will be on day duty and about 500 plus on night shift,” said Tembe.
MMC for Economic Development Nkuli Mbundu said: “We inherited a city in ICU – Johannesburg is the biggest contributor of the country’s GDP. But three quarters of young people are unemployed. We need to stimulate the SMME sector.”
Mbundu said the city needed to unlock funds to support small businesses because the government would not create the jobs needed, but the private sector would.
“We are setting up an SMME round table so we can remain accountable to businesses on a monthly basis. We need to improve the informal economy and restore credibility for big businesses to return to Johannesburg,” said Mbundu.
Belinda Echeozonjoku, MMC for Developmental Planning, said red tape was destroying development in the city.
“We realised that development takes long to process, resulting in people erecting illegal structures. Developers now prefer the coastal regions because the processes there are easier,” said Echeozonjoku
Echeozonjoku said in order for businesses to remain in Joburg, developmental planning processes needed to be simplified.
“We need to fix the system. In future, you will be forced to use architects for building plans. Online applications will use accredited architects to reduce the red tape in the process.
“If building plans are sub-standard, the system will reject that application. Only accredited architects will be used. This will reduce time frames and red tape for developers,” said Echeozonjoku.
Roads and transport
Funzi Ngobeni, MMC for Roads and Transport, also has his eye on fixing problems in the inner city. “We will be working with the Joburg Road Agency. It’s important to note that heavy rainfall has worsened the roads.”
Ngobeni said that JRA has a recovery plan to deal with the pothole backlog. But, first, the city needed to eradicate corruption in JRA from grassroots to management.
He also touched on the cable theft problem that caused widespread traffic light malfunctioning and the collapse of Metrorail.
“That mode of transport has collapsed. It is not a city failure, that is a Prasa failure and we want to hold them accountable. We want to engage with other cities like Tshwane and Cape Town to hold the national department accountable,” said Ngobeni.
MMC for Housing Mlungisi Mabaso’s department wants to formalise informal settlements by bringing services to the townships.
“Johannesburg accounts for most of the people waiting for homes on the national housing register, but we don’t receive support from the province,” said Mabaso.
“We’re launching service stands for people to build homes. Housing allocations are taking forever. If we can bring water, power, sanitation and roads to where people are already living, they don’t die waiting for homes,” said Mabaso.
Corporate and shared services
MMC Leah Knott tackled problems around ‘city processes’, which she says became difficult in the past few years. “It was almost as if the world was going forward and we were going backwards,” she said.
Knott said that service delivery in Johannesburg operates in silos which made reporting problems unnecessarily complicated for residents.
From several service hotlines to long call waiting times, and problematic systems, residents are spending too much time and resources trying to report problems to the city.
“It’s frustrating for residents to log problems and faults, you are sent from pillar to post, there are about seven apps that CoJ uses. We need integrated smart services,” said Knott.
The new government appears optimistic about the future. But it’s anyone’s guess as to how long it will take to return the glitter and glamour back to the City of Gold.