Doomed to fail without rule of law
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.