Have Your Say:
The ‘Have Your Say’ page is intended to give you an opportunity to express support for or opposition to various issues of the time.
The Johannesburg Municipality seem particularly tardy in rendering statements and providing proper billing information. If this is typical of the attitude of municipalities toward their consumers (sort of suck it up, bro), should municipalities be penalised financially for non compliance. While this may seem counter-intuitive (at the end of the day it is the municipalities customers who bear the brunt of any penalties), but if 1) they were penalised and 2) had to publish the extent of the penalties, this may highlight the extent of the problem and, hopefully, move the proposed Municipal Forums to act against tardy municipalities, their management and the municipal councilors.
Penalties are de-motivators. Rather reward good performance. A monthly performance gratuity for good service delivery might work. The gratuity would not be part of a Municipality's pay package but needs to be externalised, be a reward from the consumers for good service delivery given through the Municipal Forums.
Publishing a barometer of consumer satisfaction based on the volume and nature of complaints dealt with through the Municipal Forums might give ordinary workers and management and councillors an idea of how well they are doing and could be a basis of judging whether a performance gratuity is justified.
On the other hand, why should consumers be forced to pay for poor delivery of goods or services? Why should they be forced to pay additional money, even through a Treasury funded Municipal Forum, in order to get the service levels expected in return for a fair wage? Could a legitimate framework be created for consumers to legitimately withhold payment for poor or inadequate service delivery?
A municipal forum (MF) would be a local layer of democracy available to constituents and constituencies between elections, where municipal government and elected councils and councillors are held accountable to the MF and thereby to their constituencies, for the by-laws and regulations passed by council and management, both of which would need MF approval, and for the implementation thereof by management.
Management would be hired only with the approval of the MF and could be fired by the MF for non-performance as could the municipal councils also be fired, forcing municipal by-elections or the election of the entire council if the MF deemed it necessary.
The MF would be populated in much the same manner as the proposed Senate but with fewer members and with the same two year cycles as the proposed senate, with the 50% oldest serving members being replaced annually.
This would be the implementation of direct democracy at local levels. In this manner, if service delivery fails, communities need not resort to rioting, burning schools, clinics and libraries and planting bombs or incendiary devices in public spaces in order to be heard.
Chapter 9 of the constitution of the Republic of South Africa protects institutions and persons established under its protection from interference from politicians and political bodies (including Parliament) and is intended to guard democracy.
A municipal forum is a forum for voicing constituency concerns and opinions. As such the most direct way of selecting members from constituencies is probably the best way. Random selection (sortition) from an available (volunteer) population seems to be the most direct way of obtaining that representation.
Municipal forums (MFs) need to be paid for but perhaps should not be beholden to government or municipalities which answer to them. There should be an element of independence regarding their existence and authority. A central Municipal Forums Fund under the protection of chapter 9 of the Constitution would enable that independence.
Without the power to wield the ultimate stick of firing (recalling) councillors or entire councils, municipal forums would only be token bodies and be incapable of any meaningful action.
Without the ability to fire municipal management for incompetence, ineffectiveness or dereliction of duty, Municipal Forums would be ineffectual in the pursuance of their mandate, viz to speak for a municipality's constituents.
Typically, municipalities will buy goods and services (eg ESKOM, Rand Water, Pick It Up) and sell those services on to their captive market, the municipality's consumer population. Is this a good business model from the consumer's point of view when the supplier (the municipality) is actually operating as a monopoly and the consumer has no alternatives to choose from?
The DDF would argue that this enables municipalities, whether deliberately or not, to obscure the true nature of the costs that go into running a municipality and how those costs are recovered, particularly it obscures the actual cost of cross subsidisation.
Whilst the DDF acknowledges the need to subsidise poorer communities, we do not believe that hidden and obscure cross-subsidisation, the cost of which is born by other consumers who can barely afford their own costs, is the best way to do it. So we would prefer a system where costs are transferred from the service provider, directly to the consumer, without profit to the municipality and without cross subsidisation, and that other means of subsidising the poorer consumers be found and accounted for in a more transparent, open and honest manner.
By obscuring the true costs of subsidisation we are obscuring the true nature of the problem, If you do not understand the nature and the extent of a problem you cannot understand how to fix it.
Municipalities will typically charge more affluent community members more for a good or service and charge the less affluent community members less or not at all, for the same good or service. This distorts the true costs to community members of goods and services. The DDF argue that such distortions should not be allowed, that cross subsidisation should not be allowed, and that other means should be found to support poorer communities.