Johannesburg’s streets became a wasteland of rubbish and filth. In some places, residents were wading knee-deep through trash. Some disgruntled striking Pikitup workers went on the rampage, illegally dumping rubbish in the streets and maliciously damaging property.
The prolonged strike trashed the City’s image locally and abroad, and presented a real danger to the health and well-being of Johannesburg’s residents. There was even the apparent bizarre discovery of the bubonic plague in a rat found in Tembisa.
As the DA’s mayoral candidate, I believe that the City of Johannesburg’s first responsibility is to protect its citizens.
But, in my daily work with the poorest residents of the city, I observed that it was they who suffered the most in the early months of 2016. The DA and I have been especially concerned about the homeless children and adults sleeping on the filthy streets.
For years, Pikitup has been plagued with systemic problems that have prevented it from fulfilling its duty to keep Joburg clean.
Pikitup is bloated with ANC cadres, many deployed in its upper management. The company has a poisonous relationship with its employees because it is operating a de facto closed shop policy. By this I mean that disgruntled employees cannot work for a different refuse collector or exercise their grievances without fear of repercussions.
The managing director, Amanda Nair, has faced a litany of charges brought against her by the SA Municipal Workers Union. Yet, somehow she remains comfortable and secure in her office. As a manager myself, I know she cannot possibly have provided laser-focused leadership when facing serious allegations about crony tenders, the theft of company equipment, and incompetent middle management.
Then there is the economic dimension of this scandal. Two weeks ago, the Auditor-General’s local government report named Pikitup as one of the “main contributors” to increased irregular expenditure in the City. In 2011/12 alone, Pikitup incurred R572-million in irregular expenditure. Additionally, the City had to pay for other refuse collectors to do Pikitup’s work when they went on strike.
What is to be done?
If I am elected on 3 August, I will break up Pikitup’s corrupt and ineffective monopoly once and for all. I will ensure that this City is the cleanest in Africa, giving metros like Cape Town and “Africa’s Singapore” – Kigali – a run for their money.
The Pikitup scandal is emblematic of an ANC that creates a divided society between “insiders” and “outsiders”. It exists for the few, instead of the many. The DA is committed to real redress and to rolling back the frontiers of apartheid. Simply put, this means transformation.
One way that the DA government will achieve transformation is by giving opportunities to small businessmen and women.
The time has come for many to have a slice of the cake.
Pikitup is a clumsy company. Its managers believe that it is too big to fail and that it cannot be cut down to size. It employs more than 4,500 people, using more than 200 trucks to provide refuse collection services to the City of Joburg’s private and business residents.
Leadership is about taking difficult decisions and exercising cool judgement.
I believe that exclusively employing one refuse removal company has put the City at high risk. I intend to invoke Clause 59 of the Service Agreement between the City of Johannesburg and Pikitup, which states that the City can terminate its agreement with Pikitup by providing 180 days’ notice.
My strategic plan is to prioritise small business in procurement, especially from the townships. I will break up Pikitup into a number of smaller and decentralised service providers in each region – seven in total. This is in line with international best practice. Local and international experience proves that employing a number of contractors encourages vigorous competition. Service providers strive to be the best of the best, knowing that future tenders depend on their performance. After all, their very brand and reputation are at stake.
In turn, this will open up unprecedented entrepreneurial opportunities and create jobs in the fastest growth industry in the 21st century – green technologies. Better educated and experienced staff, continuous and updated training, best industry practices, and cutting-edge environmental knowledge will be the dividend.
Under the DA we will move to a win-win situation.
The beauty of dividing Pikitup is that if there is another strike or service disruption, only one of the City’s regions will be negatively impacted upon. I would then be able to immediately provide support from another refuse collector in one of the other six regions to pick up the slack.
Finally, from day one, there will be a transparent and open tender system that anyone can access on the internet.
As a jobs mayor, I’ve pledged that Pikitup employees will not lose their jobs. They will be absorbed by the seven service providers that successfully bid for the tenders. Their grievances will be acted on. I will listen. In return, I will expect them to inculcate my Service with Pride vision.
Once and for all, my plan will end Pikitup’s inefficient monopoly on refuse collection and keep our City clean. DM