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Active Citizenry Required as Joburg Collapses

Shoneez Bulbulia
16 September 2023| 2 minute read

Drastic intervention measures are needed by local communities to get active and involved in saving Johannesburg, as the ‘city collapses’.
The call comes, following a public meeting held by the CivActs team for Action for Accountability in Lenasia at the Nurul Islam Hall on 30 August 2023. Holding government accountable and demanding citizens rights in an orderly way was one of the main points, and a need that is required by families young and old.
Guest speaker Rashid Seedat, executive director of the Gauteng City Region Observatory, addressed the crowd.
He explained the problems within the departments, at the event themed, ‘A City In Crisis’, and ‘How it affects you as a resident and what u can do about it.’
This follows the call for ‘Active citizenry by the United Democratic Front and various religious organisations to get involved in ways to hold government accountable.
Zaakirah Vadi from Defend our Democracy, said “active citizenry is necessary when the city is collapsing,” and fraud and corruption has to be eradicated as citizens must be taken care of.
Zarina Motala, facilitator for Lenasia, for CivActs team for Action for Accountability, has called upon volunteers to join their team. “They will receive training on issues of accountability and the COJ process. “
Seedat explained that poor financial management, electricity and water losses through various ways, supply chain management challenges and unauthorized, irregular, fruitless and wasteful expenditure were amongst some of the evident challenges.
Visible effects of poor service delivery, with potholes left unattended to, traffic lights not working, low spending on repairs and maintenance meant that infrastructure needed to be replaced sooner.
He said the way to start resolving some of the issues was to introduce mechanisms to stabilize municipal councils that are ‘hung’.
Seedat was optimistic, saying problems had to be ‘reset’ in ways like learning from the past and “taking a leaf out of Joburgs crises of the late 1990s to the impressive turnaround.
Seedats mindset was positive, adding that there is a need to utilize the resources of the academia, private sector, NGOs and civil society to rebuild. ” We need to rethink overall strategy for municipal finance, renew accountability, and work towards co governance and compact with to citizens, residents and stakeholders.”
Vadi said people need to get involved in active citizenry besides just donating food hampers and assisting during water cuts and other ways. “Partnerships work only when local government is willing to listen to the people, cooperate and build partnerships. But when a city is not working and when the city is collapsing around us.. it is collapsing…where there are problems in the northern suburbs also..it’s not much different…problems either service delivery…when a city has 9 mayor’s in space of 7 years. The latest mayor no one is sure what’s going to happen to him. Previous mayor in the mayors position for less then 3 months. She said pressure must be applied on government and civil servants. “In an instance like we are in we could look at strategic partners perhaps , but should we not look at other forms of putting pressure on political parties and those at the top to do their work.”
She said “citizens need ensure that this coalition that we now have works in the interest of people, how do we ensure this coalition based on principal and service delivery and not who’s the mayor and who’s getting a piece of the pie as part of the mayoral council. So lets talk about a reset . Everyone here needs to once a month not just protest on the streets of Lenasia but we need to be in city council chambers with our banners…Maybe even once a week. Like a Friday afternoon.. Friday for change type of thing, demanding that we get attention that this community gets what it deserves.”
She said other communities are looking at different tactics like rates boycotts. In Lenasia, OUTA has reached out to the Lenasia Residents Association. Vadi said residents must “put the city under pressure..She explained that active citizenry is standing together as a community to make a change and a difference. “It
requires standing up to those within in our communities who are colluding for their own benefits.” She said it’s also time for different organisations to work together with communities to fight for basic services delivery and rights.
“At national level i think we’ve seen what dangers are presented when business and corrupt officials in government get together so we’ve had instances of examples like the Guptas and Salim Essa who come from mosques and temples and people would laud over them when they were there and not call them out. We see at a national level what we fail to do as ordinary people and isolate them when they supposed to be isolated through a process of state capture and …we see at local level as well.”
Vadi said when it comes to active citizenry process, “we need to develop networks and work in a way like the Durban ratepayers organised themselves effectively.”
In July the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation held a meeting. They advised communities to network, while Action for Accountability wants to see what role all can play to “strengthen the networks and see solidarity extended.”
Vadi explained that through city networking, residents can see that they all have similar problems and need a collective approach to solving it. “It’s time communities take action irrespective where they come from.”

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