Doomed to fail with­out rule of law

The Star Early Edition - - OPINION & ANALYSIS -

AS I GOT onto my flight from New York back to Joburg af­ter vis­it­ing my daugh­ter and spend­ing a won­der­ful week with my fam­ily, I was given a copy of The Star news­pa­per of Fri­day, De­cem­ber 23, with the head­line ti­tled “Turn­ing taps off. Zama za­mas’ il­le­gal wa­ter us­age is a ma­jor con­cern”.

This ar­ti­cle il­lus­trated the kind of chal­lenge I had to face head-on when I landed at OR Tambo 15 hours later.

Here we are faced with il­le­gal min­ing hap­pen­ing un­abated in our city, com­pounded by the il­le­gal us­age of large amounts of fresh wa­ter to pu­rify gold.

These zama za­mas il­le­gally con­nect makeshift hosepipes to RDP houses in Matholesville in Rood­e­poort, by­pass­ing pre­paid wa­ter me­ters, which re­sults in the City of Joburg los­ing large amounts of fresh wa­ter daily, threat­en­ing the over­all sup­ply of wa­ter amid the coun­try­wide drought.

There can be no doubt that the rule of law is cen­tral to the suc­cess of our city. With­out it we will have the kind of de­gen­er­a­tion wit­nessed in our in­ner city to­day, where crime and grime are the ac­cepted norm. With up­hold­ing the rule of law, we can grow this city, at­tract in­vest­ment, cre­ate jobs and make our city alive with op­por­tu­nity.

For too long it has been eas­ier to look the other way when crim­i­nal­ity is tak­ing place in Joburg. It has been too easy to le­git­imise it by claim­ing to have more press­ing pri­or­i­ties than city by-laws. It has been too easy to ig­nore it as a re­sult of short sight­ed­ness, for­get­ting the long-term im­pact on our city and its res­i­dents.

I am fully sym­pa­thetic to the plight of fel­low hu­man be­ings forced to en­gage in such il­le­gal ac­tiv­ity, but on the other hand, with­out the proper ap­pli­ca­tion of the rule of law, our city is doomed to fail.

Our re­al­ity in Joburg is that law­less­ness has been al­lowed to flour­ish. Hi­jacked build­ings, il­le­gal wa­ter and elec­tric­ity con­nec­tions, brib­ing law en­force­ment agents, il­le­gal dump­ing and cor­rup­tion are daily oc­cur­rences. These acts no longer elicit shock and hor­ror.

Af­ter my first 100 days in of­fice I raised the is­sue of crim­i­nal­ity in the in­ner city of Joburg, with build­ings and prop­er­ties hi­jacked and druglo­rds run­ning the streets like their own small em­pires.

The City of Joburg is los­ing bil­lions of rand each year from un­paid rates and taxes. A large num­ber of busi­nesses also op­er­ate il­le­gally, de­priv­ing the city and na­tional gov­ern­ment of rev­enue from such taxes.

Our poor mem­bers of so­ci­ety, un­em­ployed, low-skilled, un­e­d­u­cated and law-abid­ing cit­i­zens are un­for­tu­nately the big­gest ca­su­al­ties of the gov­ern­ment’s fail­ure to up­hold and en­force the rule of law.

A gov­ern­ment that en­forces laws on a se­lec­tive ba­sis is bound and des­tined to fail its peo­ple, hence the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion in which South Africa finds it­self.

For laws to be ef­fec­tive, they have to be un­am­bigu­ous and ap­plied con­sis­tently and equally. Cit­i­zens ought to know what they are and re­spect them. There has to be con­se­quences for break­ing the law, no mat­ter who is in­volved or how mi­nor the in­fringe­ment may seem.

The suc­cess of the City of Joburg is to­tally de­pen­dent on up­hold­ing the rule of law. Joburg’s over 30 per­cent un­em­ploy­ment rate, 180 in­for­mal set­tle­ments (more than half of which are with­out ac­cess to even the most ba­sic ser­vices), 300 000 hous­ing back­log and R170 bil­lion in­fra­struc­ture back­log are all self-in­flicted.

The con­se­quen­tial so­cial im­pact of all of this is tragic, re­sult­ing in the break­down of our com­mu­ni­ties and ab­nor­mal lev­els of crime and drug abuse in our city. The city has failed its youth, par­tic­u­larly our black youth. Al­co­hol and sub­stance abuse are de­stroy­ing our peo­ple un­der our watch.

The sta­tus quo can­not be al­lowed to con­tinue. Our gov­ern­ment at all spheres has to start ur­gently ap­ply­ing and en­forc­ing the coun­try’s rule of law as en­shrined in our con­sti­tu­tion.

The con­sti­tu­tion is there to pro­tect all cit­i­zens, not only those who break the law. Law-abid­ing cit­i­zens are also en­ti­tled to pro­tec­tion.

I have an­nounced our in­ten­tion to es­tab­lish a mu­nic­i­pal court in our city that will ad­dress by-law in­fringe­ments. We can­not have our by-laws mocked by per­pe­tra­tors who take ad­van­tage of our over­bur­dened justice sys­tem. In these courts, of­fend­ers will be brought to book and our by-laws will be­come worth more than the pa­per they are cur­rently writ­ten on.

The City of Joburg, un­der my lead­er­ship, is pre­pared to go all out to serve the res­i­dents of our city. We need to re­claim the in­ner city from slum lords and druglo­rds. We must work with the pri­vate sec­tor to build low-cost and af­ford­able hous­ing for our peo­ple. The city has to be a hub of en­tre­pre­neur­ial devel­op­ment for the coun­try. We need mil­lions of our peo­ple to live, work and play in their safe city.

We must also vig­or­ously fight cor­rup­tion, which steals from the poor. There has to be se­ri­ous con­se­quences for those who are in­volved in cor­rupt ac­tiv­i­ties, both in the pub­lic and pri­vate sec­tors. The City of Joburg is fully com­mit­ted to this fight.

The ap­point­ment of Shadrack Sibiya is our ini­tial step in this fight. We are go­ing to be ask­ing the coun­cil to pass a by-law to fur­ther ca­pac­i­tate his unit to be in­de­pen­dent of any po­lit­i­cal in­ter­fer­ence in tackling cases of cor­rup­tion within the city. Al­ready, great progress is be­ing made and a num­ber of cases are near­ing the stage where we can dis­miss, lay crim­i­nal charges and re­cover stolen money.

When I was elected mayor of Joburg I was given a man­date by the peo­ple of our city. Part of this man­date was to deal with the lack of law and or­der in our city and to tackle crim­i­nal­ity, sub­stance abuse and dis­re­gard for our by-laws.

It will not be sup­ported by all, and our ef­forts will be at­tacked by those who wish to see the con­tin­ued de­gen­er­a­tion of our city. This will not pre­vent us from do­ing what has to be done to make this city great.

MIN­ING THE DEPTHS: The Rood­e­poort reser­voir, which feeds Matholesville and sur­round­ing ar­eas, has in­di­cated a high in­crease in wa­ter de­mand caused by il­le­gal con­nec­tions to Joburg wa­ter in­fra­struc­ture and abuse by il­le­gal min­ers.

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