Mayor vows to end billing chaos

The Star Early Edition - - OPINION & ANALYSIS -

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.

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