Row erupts over ‘im­mi­nent’ ax­ing of MMC

Da­gada not in fir­ing line, says DA

The Star Early Edition - - NEWS - ANNA COX @an­na­cox

ASPAT has erupted between the ANC and the DA over re­ports that mem­ber of may­oral com­mit­tee (MMC) for fi­nance, Ra­belani Da­gada, is to be axed over the Joburg billing cri­sis.

The ANC in Joburg yes­ter­day put out a state­ment say­ing that they had learnt, “with­out any sur­prise”, about the im­mi­nent ax­ing of Da­gada.

“At the be­gin­ning of the term of of­fice, Mashaba pre­sented coun­cil­lor Da­gada as a com­pe­tent and highly qual­i­fied in­di­vid­ual who would take the city’s fi­nance depart­ment to new heights.

“The im­mi­nent fir­ing of coun­cil­lor Da­gada comes amid con­tin­ued prob­lems in the city’s rev­enue depart­ment re­gard­ing the es­ca­lat­ing billing cri­sis, which in the words of the mayor has reached un­prece­dented pro­por­tions.

“The re­cent emo­tion­ally charged out­bursts by Mashaba on billing and his flimsy com­mit­ment to take over the res­o­lu­tion of the billing cri­sis are just a smoke­screen to project Mashaba as a no-non­sense leader who is com­mit­ted to fix prob­lems,” said ANC Joburg spokesper­son Jolidee Ma­tongo.

“The truth of the mat­ter is that mayor Mashaba has messed up the sys­tem and now seeks a sac­ri­fi­cial lamb to take the blame for his ill-thought de­ci­sions. Mashaba changed the ex­ec­u­tive man­age­ment team of the rev­enue depart­ment three times in 12 months.”

It was Mashaba, said Ma­tongo, who went in, guns blaz­ing, to de­stroy the very foun­da­tion of the city’s fi­nance and rev­enue-gen­er­at­ing ca­pac­ity with­out which the city runs a risk of be­ing broke.

“The de­ci­sion to fire Da­gada is to save the DA’s face and spur Mashaba from the wrath of the cit­i­zens. The real cul­prit who should be fired is Mashaba for col­laps­ing the fi­nances of the city that, by all ac­counts, were healthy,” he added.

Ma­tongo added that Da­gada had been fired as ex­ec­u­tive business leader and chair­per­son of the gov­er­nance clus­ter, so his ax­ing was im­mi­nent de­spite state­ments by the DA to the con­trary.

Tanya Ven­ter, from the mayor’s of­fice, said Da­gada was not be­ing axed. The DA, and Da­gada him­self, also de­nied he was about to be fired or sus­pended.

In an in­ter­view with The Star yes­ter­day, Da­gada said: “I am nei­ther sus­pended nor re­moved from the may­oral com­mit­tee. In fact, the mayor has re­cently as­signed group IT to my port­fo­lio, which is a sign of con­fi­dence.”

Da­gada said he was re­leased as chair of gov­er­nance and leader of ex­ec­u­tive business to en­sure he had more time to deal with his main port­fo­lio, which is fi­nance.

“I couldn’t con­tinue do­ing all this ad­di­tional work. I re­quested to be re­leased. I was not re­moved,” he said.

Da­gada said billing prob­lems span a num­ber of de­part­ments from which the fi­nance depart­ment re­ceives in­cor­rect data that leads to in­cor­rect billing.

Da­gada dis­missed al­le­ga­tions that the billing cri­sis had in­creased un­der the DA.

He said he in­her­ited the new re­gion­al­i­sa­tion pol­icy which gives res­i­dents the op­tion of the date of pay­ment and which re­sulted in many peo­ple be­ing billed twice in one month.

“I gave a di­rec­tive to stop it, but it was too late. We only have 40 000 af­fected cus­tomers out of one mil­lion, which is still too much, but we have ring-fenced th­ese and re­versed cut-offs and in­ter­est, and will re­ha­bil­i­tate their ac­counts.

“We also un­der­stand the frus­tra­tion of coun­cil­lors who have to deal with res­i­dents’ cut-offs – in many cases the peo­ple who voted us in, but we can­not stop sus­pen­sions for non-pay­ments.”

He said re­gion­al­i­sa­tion had many ben­e­fits as read­ings were done every seven days, in­stead of 21 days.

Da­gada added that re­peated dis­con­nec­tions would not stop. “If we do that, the city will be bank­rupt in 60 days. There are many peo­ple, es­pe­cially busi­nesses, who are hid­ing be­hind the so-called billing cri­sis not to pay.”

Although he ap­proved the state­ment ear­lier this week that the mayor was per­son­ally in­ter­ven­ing, Da­gada, said, in hind­sight, he re­grets ap­prov­ing it. “This gives peo­ple an ex­cuse to hide be­hind.”

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