Non-compliance with Building Codes

The deadly Tongaat roof collapse has riveted one’s attention on the total contempt many builders and developers have for the municipal and national building codes and authorities.

In Yeoville & Belleview in Gauteng we see this contempt being exercised daily and we see the inability or unwillingness of municipal authorities to enforce codes and even when obliged by community pressure to issue stop orders, we see the unwillingness of municipalities to enforce these stop orders.

A case in point is a building in Yeoville, being erected without plans being submitted and therefor without approval.  According to the plans we have seen, the building is intended to house perhaps 300 children in approximately 20 M x 4 M on two floors, or perhaps 450 children on three floors (about 150 children per floor, or about 0.6M² per child), at least that is what the plans indicate.

The Direct Democracy Forum are are horrified at the potential for disaster effecting perhaps as many as 450 children in a building built without local authority oversight, in spite of the municipality having been warned of the illegal building activity and indeed even acknowledging the problem and issuing stop orders.  As with the Tongaat Mall case, the builder / developer simply ignores the stop orders and presses ahead with the building.  In the Yeoville case the developer also ignored the protests and objections of the surrounding neighbours.  

As with Tongaat, the local municipality failed to enforce the stop orders and presumably believe they have done their duty and a long and slow legal process begins, perhaps extending over years, which they see as their only ongoing obligation.  

The DDF believe that these acts are little better than piracy by developers and it might even be argued that the municipalities’ inaction is in effect their colluding in these acts.

Why do we have building codes which are ignored, bylaws which are ignored and stop orders which are ignored?  Why indeed do we have municipalities who cannot or simply will not do their jobs?  Just as with the Johannesburg street vendor fiasco, the municipalities are simply not managing the environs which is their duty to manage,  Once again they are not delivering the services which they are mandated to deliver.  Indeed, are they even mandated to deliver services except by virtue of empty promises uttered at the beginning of each election cycle?  

The Tongaat disaster is a tragic consequence of one example of that sort of neglect.

The DDF have a solution for this dilemma.  Visit DDF local government policies and see how municipalities can be forced to deliver services and do their duties or be forced out of office and possibly even face criminal charges for neglect and dereliction of duty.

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The buck stops at the ballot box 

Athletics SA victim of power grabs

Our bureaucrats are not the only people subjected to power grabs and interference in their jobs.  It seems South African athletes are subjected to similar attacks.  The South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc), a body designated by the Minister of Sports and Recreation as mandated by the National Sports and Recreation Act No.110 of 1998 to act as an umbrella body for multiple sport activities, such as the Olympics and Commonwealth games, is trying to assume overriding authority over SA’s sports federations.  

The act does not state that the body allotted that task (currently Sascoc) has the right to interfere in or with the various national sports federations, either in their leadership, management or selection processes, yet this is exactly what Sascoc seem to be attempting with Athletics SA (ASA) by inserting Sascoc choices into ASA (at least one of which apparently resulted in financial mismanagement at ASA). 

This is apparently a similar pattern of interference experienced by other national sports federations.  In terms of the new companies act, to which both Sascoc and ASA are subject, you cannot have control of one non profit company vested in another and this seems to be what Sascoc is attempting to achieve. ASA would not play ball and Sascoc suspended ASA from Sascoc. (do Sascoc even have the right to do that?). Sascoc also seem to be usurping the reporting channels of national sports federations to Parliament by inserting themselves into that line of authority and accountability.  This doesn’t look good for Parliament or South African sports or SA sports federations. 

The practical effect for South African athletes is they no longer have representation at the IOC or the Commonwealth Games and are no longer recipients of any funding that is normally channeled through Sascoc.  A ray of light is that the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) recognise ASA and not Sascoc as the controlling body of athletics in SA and continue normal relations with ASA and athletic events under IAAF auspices continue. 

A Direct Democracy Forum administration will ensure that power grabs by Sascoc will cease and the authority, accountability and responsibility of national sports federations to their members and Parliament will be reinstated and reinforced.  Sascoc will have to limit their activities to that of mediator and coordinator of multiple sports activities, as envisaged by the act. Then our national sports federations can get on with doing what they do best – seeing that our sports men and sports women continue winning on international playing fields and bring honour to our country.

The buck stops at the ballot box.

E-Tolls

This article in M & G on-line gives a quite comprehensive account of tolling and e-tolls in South Africa.

The Direct Democracy Forum‘s transport policy includes the assertion that a DDF administration will scrap all road tolls.

Here are some of the reasons why:

  •  All national roads are just that, they are national.  The entire economy benefits from a well planned and maintained national roads system, so the entire economy should pay for the system.
  • To have only direct users pay for a freeway system places the burden of cost on a very few users instead of sharing the costs amongst all the beneficiaries. This is patently unfair and unsustainable.
  • Tolling is a tax but instead of calling it a tax, the tolling system dresses it up as private enterprise with related income and expenditure confined and visible only to the private enterprises engaged in the system, thus a large portion of national expenditure can escape public scrutiny.
  • Recent experiences with SANRAL illustrate this point graphically.
  • Tolling and in particular E-Tolling is a very expensive form of taxation, adding a very expensive and unnecessary layer of cost to the use of freeways, which must be paid for by hapless and helpless road users.
  • E-Tolling will be computer dependent and anyone who has ever had any serious experiences with computers will know just how badly that can go wrong click go wrong click go wrong……
  • Toll concessionaires are not accountable for their business methods or structures.  All they are obliged to do is to deliver an acceptable product.
  • While concessionaires will likely deliver this acceptable product, there is nothing that obliges them to deliver the product at the best possible price to the road user.
  • The concessions are for periods in the region of 20 to 30 years.  This does not encourage competition but in fact encourages monopolies.

For all the above reasons a DDF administration will replace all toll roads with road development and maintenance paid for from the fiscus, funded in turn by TEAL, and controlled through a rigorous public tender system.  Teal is probably one of the most cost effective tax systems possible and a well run tender system will deliver the best possible price for road development and maintenance, with none of the administrative overheads imposed by tolling and e-tolling.

The buck stops at the ballot box

Politicians and the Public Protector

The current spat over the jurisdiction of the Public Protector and Parliament’s influence over the Public Protector raises some difficult questions with no easy answers.

The problems can probably be summarised by asking the question, “who watches the watch dogs?”.  In a constitutional context, the short answer is, everybody watches them.

South Africa has a constitution that makes specific provision for various institutions to promote and further the cause of democracy under the protection of the Constitution.  The Direct Democracy Forum feel that the Constitutional Court should fall under those provisions, viz, the Constitutional Court should be a chapter 9 institution, tasked with protecting the Constitution, Democracy and the Rule of Law.  It should be the senior constitutional body in the land and particularly it should watch over Parliament, which, if some of the legislation Parliament produces is anything to go by, would dearly like to subvert the constitution and democracy.  

The Constitutional Court protects the constitution from the machinations of parliament quite effectively.  It also watches over government and its tendencies to subvert or ignore constitutional demands and does that quite well, too. But the DDF feel there would be a clearer line of accountability if the Constitutional Court were only subject to the dictates of the constitution and were protected from political influence in the same manner as chapter 9 institutions.  In a DDF wish-list, that sort of accountability is just about tops, followed closely by all other chapter 9 institutions being responsible to the constitution, through the offices of the Constitutional Court.  So the Public Protector would not be directly accountable to Parliament, which could then only be able to interfere with the Public Protector’s actions and investigations and modus operandi by means of a constitutional amendment with all the high profile effort and political support needed to achieve that.  It would not be easy for parliamentarians or members of government to interfere in the affairs of any section 9 institution, and that would be the aim.

For anyone interested, the Judiciary would continue to be accountable to the Constitutional Court.  Lower, but not much lower on the wish list, would be the removal of the president or any other political person or institution from the process of appointments of any judicial officer, from the highest to the lowest appointment.  We need a better system than we have at present, a system which makes the constitution, the Constitutional Court, all chapter 9 institutions and all lower courts practically invulnerable to the whims of the body politic.

The DDF think that is a good thing to wish for and any DDF administration would do all in its power to achieve those ends.

As a caveat, the DDF believe that the Public Protector must investigate where and how it feels it should, without interference from parliament.

The buck stops at the ballot box.

Unhealthy Health System

In February 2013 the Direct Democracy Forum was told that the Yeoville Clinic had been without power or water since 14th December 2012.  The DDF was also told that the municipality had obtained a quotation for some R50 000 to rectify the matter but did not have the budget for that expenditure.  As recently as a month back the the DDF were told that the Hillbrow clinic was unable to supply risperdal and generics, commonly prescribed anti-psychotics, and other commonly needed drugs, because the municipality had not paid the suppliers.  Although the DDF tried to alert the press that there seemed to be something systemically wrong with the finances of the municipal health services, that effort seemed to be like pouring water into a bottomless well.

Then came this report “Why has Gauteng run out of ARVs?”.  The report is so shameful on so many levels as to be unbelievable.  But sadly it seems to be believable and to vindicate DDF concerns about the possible systemic collapse of Johannesburg municipal health service finances. 

As with the DDF post on the R100 Million Deals,  the DDF have multifaceted policies to bring municipal finances under control through the application of DDF policies on TEAL and to make municipalities more accountable to their constituents through  DDF Local Government Policies.  In addition, comprehensive DDF Health Care policies will broaden access for everyone to quality health care,  so patients will never be turned away from the provision of adequate care, anti-retroviral drugs and other desperately needed medications.

The buck stops at the ballot box

Human Rights Day

Thursday 21st March was Human Rights Day in South Africa primarily to remember the dead of the Sharpville massacre back in 1960. The ANC made as much political hay as they could of that and other Apartheid human rights violations, instead of focusing on the ways in which the current administration is obstructing and removing human rights from South African citizens. Lots of ways; the ‘Secrecy Act”, the “General Intelligence Laws Amendment Bill”, the failure of successive ANC governments to deliver basic services, to deliver credible education, to deliver credible health care, and various acts of police brutality under the ANC’s watch, just to mention a few major issues. 

It is sad that successive ANC governments hide behind the transgressions of apartheid governments, which were many and inexcusable, instead of facing square-on their own transgressions and the genuine challenges faced by all in South Africa today. Very Sad.  Of course, the ANC were not the only party making political hay, as the above link shows.

The truly sad thing is that when the ANC are voted out of power they will leave a terrible mess to be cleaned up.  The Direct Democracy Forum hope it will be a DDF vote that makes the difference but the ANC’s successors, whomever they may be, are going to have to face those challenges head-on, and that will be no easy task.  The DDF have the courage, the political will and the policies to do just that.

The buck stops at the ballot box.

Audits, Financial Mismanagement and Accountability

These two reports go hand in glove – the Auditor Generals’ reports on government institutions (Only 22% of the 536 entities examined received clean audits) and the M & G report on Public Service and Administration Minister Lindiwe Sisulu’s efforts to make the public service more accountable for their shortcomings and the DA’s efforts to pass a bill that would prohibit public servants doing business with government.

Here all the players calling for better controls are all on the same page, sort of, realising that it is essential to have clean government.  They just differ on the means of achieving that common goal.

The Direct Democracy Forum have their own opinions as to how clean government can be achieved.  Here are some of those ideas:

  • An upper house of parliament (the Senate) drawn from the streets that the governing party, viz. the majority in parliament, and the cabinet itself, must answer to.
  • A similar arrangement at local government level where elected councils and councilors are answerable to a representative body of ordinary citizens.
  • Directly elected representatives to all legislative chambers rather than the list based electoral system.
  • Shorter terms of office (4 years for Parliament and the President) with their terms of office overlapping.
  • Shorter terms for local government (Councilors, mayors and other top office bearers required to resign and stand for re-election each year).
  • Constituency power of recall of all directly elected officials and representatives.

These national and local senates would have similarly short terms of office with 50% of each body being replaced each year and 100% replaced over any two year cycle.

All of this is outlined in the DDF policies in the DDF website.

We are almost prepared to guarantee that such scrutiny and regulation would hold the attention of everyone intent on remaining in office, and encourage them to cooperate with their constituents to identify and meet their needs, and fulfill electioneering promises.  Without meeting those needs and fulfilling those promises their terms of office will be even briefer than expected.  No more 5 year terms of office and unfulfilled promises.   

And just for the record, no DDF administration will ever permit public servants, elected or appointed, to do business with government, nor to hold shares or non executive or executive or management positions in nor to receive rewards or remuneration of any sorts whatsoever from any business doing business with government.

The buck stops at the ballot box.

Local Government_bg

Background: 

Local Government Service Delivery is a very vexing problem.  Probably more turmoil and strife are caused by poor local government and service delivery than almost any other factor in  South Africa.

Local Government Services:

The principle services which are supposed to be delivered by local governments include:

  • Water supply
  • Sewage collection and disposal
  • Refuse removal
  • Electricity and gas supply
  • Municipal health services
  • Municipal roads and storm water drainage
  • Street lighting
  • Municipal parks and recreation

To which we would add the provision of adequate and affordable public transport services and affordable and adequate housing for the needy.

Structures:

There are well defined structures and methodologies, and some strong institutional support systems, for example The SA Local Government Association at the Education and Training Unit (ETU) for Delivery and Development and at theirToolboxpages where various topics are discussed and developed BUT when we went searching for formal training in Municipal Management we found only one course, and that a one year non degree course run by the University of Johannesburg.  Hopefully other courses exists but we are simply unaware of them.

Problems with Local Government:

The Direct Democracy Forum’s (DDF’s) perception is that, as with so many areas of endeavour in South Africa, while there are the best of intentions and many of the correct things done and the correct levels of finance applied, this somehow doesn’t result in effective service delivery and customer satisfaction.

The  DDF attribute this to a number of factors, rooted mainly in the ANC’s top-down management strategy as evidenced by its cadre deployment both at local government management and local government council selection.  We list below the main problems we see in no particular order – meaning that each problem is critical! 

Current problems resulting in poor Municipal management and service delivery:

  • Cadre deployment to management and councils.
  • Lack of expertise and skills at council level
  • Lack of expertise and skills at management level
  • Lack of expertise and skills in the workforce.
  • Lack of proper planning, budgeting, financial management and control.
  • Lack of motivation and upward mobility for the workforce.
  • Lack of accountability.
  • Lack of transparency.
  • Lack of project management skills.
  • Lack of infrastructure management, maintenance and renewal.
  • Lack of formal municipal management education and training.
  • Side-lining skills of older generations of municipal management.
  • Side-lining skills of older generations in the municipal workforce.
  • Lack of commitment to transparency and quality of service delivery at all levels.
  • Lack of adequate response to legitimate grievances from constituents.
  • Lack of response to calls for service.

Much of our reservations are reflected in the attached Municipal Infrastructure paper produced by the CSIR in 2006.  A bit dated, yes, but probably more relevant now than then and deserving of determined response by national and local government.

Strategies: