Mayor vows to end billing chaos
BILLING problems have been the bane of Joburg residents’ lives for far too long. It reached almost epidemic proportions in previous years, but then seemed to be under control during erstwhile executive mayor Parks Tau’s administration.
Now, under new Mayor Herman Mashaba, the problem has flared up again, this time because of a decision to regionalise the billing process which seems to have opened a Pandora’s box of crises, with residents who have paid being double billed and then threatened with disconnection if they don’t pay both accounts.
It’s highly disconcerting and deeply aggravating; billing chaos compounded by Byzantine bureaucracy.
Now Mashaba has thrown down the gauntlet, vowing to put the responsible billing officials on terms, firing them if they don’t get it right.
After apologising to the city – and most importantly putting a moratorium on the arbitrary disconnections – Mashaba has vowed to take personal charge of the crisis. In fact, yesterday morning, he said if he hasn’t resolved this problem by December 31, residents could boot him out.
It takes a brave man to issue this kind of ultimatum. It’s only right though, because it’s too easy to harrumph and posture – and blame officials. Far too many politicians get away with this.
Mashaba, though, has dramatically increased the stakes.
We don’t know what his officials think, but independent analysts believe the mayor might have shot himself in the foot. They believe the endemic chaos is far worse than he realises and that it will take a lot longer to fix than the end of this year, involving far more than the current morass of conflicting spreadsheets.
We won’t have long to wait one way or the other, for Mashaba has given himself 153 days to get it done. That’s a lot of time – until you remember that 44 of these are weekends, not forgetting the public holidays or the fact that he’s working with public servants.
We hope you succeed, Mr Mayor. If you don’t, we’ll take you at your word and accept your resignation on January 1.