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City of Joburg’s Floyd Brink highlights challenges of service delivery and revenue collection

City of Joburg’s Floyd Brink highlights challenges of service delivery and revenue collection
Daily Maverick’s Ferial Haffajee. (Photo: Supplied) | An explosion on Lilian Ngoyi Street (formerly Bree Street) in Johannesburg, South Africa, on 19 July 2023. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla) | Johannesburg City Manager Floyd Brink. (Photo: Gallo Images / Papi Morake)

After he recalled the tragic gas explosion playing out, Johannesburg City Manager Floyd Brink was frank about the challenges for the city during a Daily Maverick webinar. ‘We need to one: provide the service; two: collect the revenue for that.’

The Johannesburg metro is considering capacitating the city’s metro police department to allow it to track residents defaulting on their municipal bills in road blocks, workplaces and their homes.  

This was revealed by City Manager Floyd Brink during a Daily Maverick webinar “Reimagining Johannesburg: After the Bree Street Blast” hosted by associate editor Ferial Haffajee on the evening of Thursday, 17 August. 

Brink said this is likely to happen in a month or two, as part of the city’s efforts to enhance revenue collection or credit management policies.  

Last month, Finance MMC Dada Morero tabled an R80.9-billion budget for the year, but warned that Joburg’s coffers are dry. This, as he revealed that Johannesburg needs a minimum of R4.3-billion a month to fund the city’s operations and deliver services, in order to survive.

Brink appeared to paint a picture of a city on the brink. “We are at a point where we have new initiatives that we are going to implement in the next month or so.  

Ramping up capacity

“We will now ramp up the capacity within Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department (JMPD). We will deploy JMPD to track you, let’s say at your workplace, and deliver it to you there. On the other hand, as in when you start to move and go through roadblocks, as much as we are going to look at outstanding tickets, discs and so forth, we will also now focus on utility bills once you get to a roadblock.”    

The city is not oblivious to the possibility of the move receiving backlash, Brink said legalities around it were currently  being considered, insisting that the move was necessary in order to bolster the city’s ability to render services.  

“There will be a form of resistance there, but we need to get the buy-in of our communities and our residents because in order for us to deliver the necessary services, we need to one: provide the service, two: collect the revenue for that.”  

The revelation comes exactly a month after a deadly underground explosion gas ripped through Lilian Ngoyi Street (previously Bree Street). The explosion tore up 450m of the four-lane, one-way road, sending taxis and cars flying. One person died, 34-year-old Joseph Dumisane, and at least 48 were injured as the street collapsed.   

Read more in Daily Maverick: City of Joburg confirms gas caused deadly explosion, but can’t say from where 

Recalling the events of the tragic day, Brink said he had been on his way home when he received a message alerting him of the mayhem, a message he was not sure what to make of. Shortly after that, he was flooded with calls and forced to make a u-turn and rush to the scene.  

Like being in a movie scene…

“I’ve never been in a movie scene but all I can say it was the first time I saw an explosion of that nature, usually we see collapses of infrastructure, but in this case it was a vertical explosion… taxi, minibus taxis just laying on the sides and so forth, and that for me was something I always said was probably a movie scene.” 

The gas smell that had been hovering in the air did not make things any better as it created a lot of uncertainty among residents living and working around the area. 

However, the city was able to quickly provide some leadership and comfort through the provision of resources.

Brink commended work done by the emergency teams and different spheres including private sector, and non-profit organisations who lent a helping hand.    

Hours after the explosion, Daily Maverick reported on a panicked WhatsApp message from the Johannesburg development planning directorate that reveals the city did not have requisite engineering or gas-detection skills. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: Johannesburg’s emergency call for engineers, gas-detection experts after CBD explosion exposes dire skills gap

After days of investigations and scrambling for answers, officials finally announced that the cause of the explosion was methane gas. At the time (21 July 2023) authorities could not say definitively where it came from.   

Almost a month later, it still remains unclear. Probed about this by Haffajee, Brink said, “now the ignition source is the one that is still keeping slightly busy, we are working closely with other private sector companies as well, they have done a lot of samples and so forth.”  

“It becomes a little bit for us to pinpoint the exact ignition source in this case, so we will continue with those particular assessments and we should be having to have a report ready soon.” 

On Thursday afternoon, the final draft report was 98% done, according to Brink, who said it would soon be presented to the executive mayor and mayoral committee, in a bid to ensure good governance and transparency going forward. 

More explosions possible?

On the possibility of yet another explosion in the inner city, the city manager said a lot of preventative work was being done in different parts of the city to ensure it did not happen again.    

Another critical question which the city is yet to answer definitively is when the rehabilitation and repair work of the road surface and underground service tunnels in Lilian Ngoyi Street will be completed. Brink said the city would be appointing a team that would help the city, no later than 21 August 2023.

“We do understand the importance of this particular road, and the surrounding areas. Everything that we will be doing will be in record time,” he said.   

Brink poured cold water on strained relations between the technical team and political leadership, saying response to the crisis was well coordinated.  

“We have the support of the government of local unity, they assist us through our decision-making, they do their oversight in terms of the work that we do. And the private sector will also indicate to you that about two weeks ago the executive mayor convened a meeting with those property owners, and technocrats, in order to give us marching orders … therefore we can indicate that the private sector is part of the design of this particular project and that for us is a major thing,” he said. DM 

Gallery

Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • William Kelly says:

    As usual. Crack down on the soft targets, the ones that are already paying. Say something, anything, to be seen to be doing something to justify your position. What Brink misses is that this is a two way street matey. The explosion wasn’t a once off fluke. It was the consequence of years of neglect of maintenance that happened under your watch sir. Instead of trying to pin the blame on rate payers putting you in the situation of your own creation, you would garner more respect for the COJ by tendering your immediate resignation.

  • Graeme J says:

    “However, the city was able to quickly provide some leadership and comfort through the provision of resources.”

    Really Nonkululeko? You have got to be kidding me. The City STILL does not know the source of the explosion. It’s going to take them until kingdom come to actually repair the damage via some dodgy tenderpreneur process.

    I am Joburg ratepayer. Trust me, there is very little leadership from the politicians or the bureaucrats.

  • Confucious Says says:

    Why use a euphemism? It’s not a service delivery challenge! Call it like it is: service delivery failure and utter (male chicken)-up due to idiots in the system.

  • reggie84 says:

    Where is the JHB mayor. MIA as usual.

  • Henry Henry says:

    Well…wellll.
    In a constitutional state under rule of law you summons a non-payer in court.

    Now what will they do about an outstanding municipal account at a roadblock? Donner the resident? Impound her car? Resort to physical selfhelp?
    Then any resident that is owned any amount by somebody else may resort to selfhelp.
    Profoundly unconstitutional.

    • henning says:

      More extortion and bribery at JMPD roadblocks. That’s all. Just in time for the Christmas season. What a gift for the fine men and women in uniform.

  • Chris VZ says:

    I think Floyd Brink is a sandwich short of a picnic. Using the JMPD as debt collectors? Brink is more confused than a chameleon in a Smarties box.

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