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Joburg is broken

Basic service delivery buckles in the country’s largest metro.
Potholes are unrepaired. Image: Moneyweb

The City of Johannesburg, the largest metro in the country, is becoming increasingly dysfunctional.

Potholes remain unrepaired for months; for example, it took many months for multiple large potholes on a major arterial route (William Nicol Drive) to be repaired. Chronic power outages following this past weekend’s storms have, in some instances, taken days to resolve. The provision of some basic services – such as electricity, water and roads – has become more erratic and unpredictable over time, not less.

Read: Emigration is contributing to Gauteng’s weak residential market

Understandably, the Covid-19 lockdown had a significant impact on the city earlier this year.

From the outside, however, it could appear as if some departments have simply not recovered. (Others were broken before lockdown and remain so.)


Central to this breakdown in delivery, felt most acutely in City Power and the Johannesburg Roads Agency (JRA), is an often-messy relationship with contractors and suppliers. In some instances, these contracts have lapsed (or allowed to lapse). Management of stocks is another major contributor.

City Power has the single largest revenue and expenditure lines of any city entity or department (outside of group finance, which collects the rates that pay for many, many other services in the city). In the current year, City Power is budgeted to have revenue of R17.7 billion (of a total of R63.4 billion), and expenses of R16.9 billion. Bulk purchases (from Eskom and the private Kelvin power station) comprise R12.8 billion, with employee costs and repairs/maintenance each exceeding R1 billion for the year. The (separate) capex budget for the year is R738 million.


The Joburg Roads Agency, which is responsible for a road network spanning more than 10 000km in the city, has a far smaller budget of R1.4 billion for the year. More than half of this (R787 million) will be spent on staff, with R282 million on contractors and R276 million on “other expenditure” (likely mostly materials). The JRA’s capex budget is R1.1 billion this year.

A letter from Ward 102 councillor David Potter, which aims to contextualise the service delivery issues in the city as well as why councillors are hamstrung (in their oversight role), contains some telling revelations:

  • The JRA “has not made asphalt (tar) for many, many months. First it was aggregate that they did not have, now we hear it is natural gas. By their own admission their asphalt plant suffers from ‘management instability, insufficient skilled personnel and no contracts for aggregates, gas and maintenance’.
  • “In August 2020 the Joburg Roads Agency appointed contractors to repair potholes, reinstatements [of tar, paving or curbing] and other related work across the seven regions of the city. Launched with much fanfare in each region of the city, these contractors have hardly made a dent in the number of reinstatements and potholes in Region B [the region in which Ward 102 falls]. Across all regions in the city you need to drive on what is left of the road, not on the left side of the road.
  • “As at mid-October 2020 the contractors have seemingly stopped in Region B (and maybe other regions), as they have not been paid for the first batch of work orders and so seemingly refuse to continue with the second batch. We believe that a senior Joburg Roads Agency official responsible for the signing off of these invoices is on temporary suspension. Potholes and reinstatements are mushrooming across the city and the rains have hardly even started.”
  • Additionally, “the Joburg Roads Agency currently has no arm co-barrier rails, batteries for UPS backup power supply of traffic signals and other standard stock items”.

One would not guess any of this, based on the media statements on the city’s website.

Not a word has been mentioned about potholes since an update in mid-September where it undertook to tackle the problem as part of a “service delivery blitz”.

The MMC for Transport, Nonhlanhla Makhuba, hosted a webinar in mid-October , the purpose of which was “to raise awareness on the various aspects required to decongest the traffic especially during the traffic peak period”.

“The engagement further provided insight on future engineering and 4IR solutions to the traffic problems,” according to the city.

Suddenly, on Tuesday night, the metro publicly committed to a six-week programme to deal with the approximately 48 000 potholes across the city. It claims this backlog exists due to the “Level 5 to Level 3 lockdown period”.

Since this article was first published, Africa Check found that in fact, the City of Johannesburg puts the number at 100 000. “The (Johannesburg Roads Agency) reported that it planned to fix nearly 141,000 potholes from 1 July 2019 to 30 June 2020. They missed this target, but by how much is unclear due to calculation errors in their reports,” according to the fact-checking organisation.

At City Power, things are not much better.

According to Potter’s letter:

  • “The appointment of maintenance contractors is now before the courts. These contractors who were appointed to do work on the City Power network are often substandard, do not have the required tools or fail to meet basic safety requirements, are often required to return to do work again and again, or other contractors are appointed to do what others did not finish or that failed.
  • “Warehousing and stock management is not a strength of City Power. One just needs to visit their store in Reuven to wonder how this entity operates. It is now known that City Power does not have stock of 170 to 400 amp circuit breakers. In a recent instance in Ward 102, theft of two circuit breakers took place one late afternoon. Suspiciously so, this incident was not reported to their internal risk control department. When a contractor eventually arrived to replace the stolen circuit breakers, they only arrived with one, not two. These streets were without power for over 28 hours.”

Here, MMC (for Environment & Infrastructure Services) Mpho Moerane seems to be a lot more hands-on. On Monday, the DA alleged that as from November: “City Power has no contractors at its disposal [and] may no longer use any contractors to address power outages in the city.” It contested that there were many hundreds of outages following the weekend’s storms. On Tuesday, the number was 400 across the city.

Moerane calls the statement about the city’s failure to appoint contractors “false”. He says: “City Power has not failed to appoint contractors. To this effect, some of the contractors have already been appointed and are working on some of the existing power interruptions side-by-side with our teams.”

Certain city entities remain well-run and without issue

Waste management service provider Pikitup, frustrated with issues at the city’s call centre, established an in-house call centre last month. Weekly collections are mostly on-schedule (and any backlogs are quickly cleared).

Johannesburg Water, too, continues to perform well with teams dispatched to leaks swiftly and efficiently. But as Potter notes, “with the repair of pipes from bursts comes the headache of the digging and the failed reinstatement of pavements and road surfaces”. In this councillor’s ward alone, there are more than 100 reinstatements of tar, paving or curbing outstanding.

Much needs to be done to properly fix an ailing metro, which multiple administrations (including the DA/EFF coalition) have failed to do.

Until then, residents will bear the brunt of these issues.

Read: Joburg city councillors want to give themselves ‘outrageous’ increases



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One wonders how many City Officials still ‘work from home’? Maybe they should get back to their offices and back to their depots and start to work?

Why would a municipal work want to return to work when he or she receives full pay whilst sitting at home doing nothing. Solution to some of the problems is to enforce a no work no pay policy. Johannesburg is not the only metro where there is a problem in this regard, I believe it is a problem in the majority of municipalities in SA.

Why would a municipal worker want to return to work if he or she receives full pay for sitting at home and doing nothing. Johannesburg is not unique in this regard. Most municipalities in SA have the same problem. Enforcing a no work no pay policy would solve many of the problems. Firing a few workers for poor performance would fix many of the remaining problems.

Firing unionised “workers”? Not going to happen. Solution: No-one in the employ of government (Tax-payer) may belong to any union.

“Workers?” More like lazers or idlers.

Amazing how various departments have ““Level 5 to Level 3 lockdown period problems however the billing department is working fine?

“Joburg is broken”

Understatement of the century

It should read

“South Africa is broken”

What did anyone expect with the ANC at the helm?

And the looting continues unabated

Work? With their over inflated staff, work isn’t part of their daily routine

Each one does a little bit of what one can do ending up with nothing being done

Our filthy streets, potholes, dysfunctional Municipalities is indicative of this

Sorry, you are very wrong. They don’t go to office to work either. Or leave. Leave to them means doing just the normal daily f-all at a different place, preferably on another continent as well.

This is nothing more than a savage indictment of the ongoing policy of appointing employees based on anything other than competence and integrity. Time to drain the swamp.

Drain the swamp … yes, but to where? Give them pensions? Put them on state grants? Into the criminal unemployed?

We need an entire social restructuring like post-revolution China, but unfortunately, there is no comparison in work ethic.

So …. if you haven’t won the Lotto and are able to buy a semidetached in Sydney for R10 million get some nice wine and enjoy the sunsets.

Another ANC success story.

…and Cyril is ‘shocked’ to witness the decline.

Everywhere the ANC manages, it’s broken.

We are semi retired so we travel a lot. If Moneyweb thinks JHB is broken, try driving the Maluti Route in the eastern Freestate. Its supposed to be a “tourist destination”. The road from Winburg to Tweespruit is almost undriveable, in places you have to drive on the shoulder. Drive through Kuruman … its a complete rubbish dump without a doubt the filthiest town in SA IMO. Fort Beaufort has to be seen to be believed. PE. Marquard is simply completely bust. Take a drive through central Pretoria.

In contrast, the western Cape seems to not be part of SA….

I wonder what the mayors, of these failed towns, and his council members are getting paid? I’m sure there lies the problem i.e. salaries.

That’s ANC

Why should we pay vehicle license fees, if nothing gets done?
Why should we pay tax if nothing happens?

Agreed, There needs to be a properly organised tax revolt.

When measured against a western, Eurocentric value system, Jo’burg is appears broken (and many other towns ‘managed’ by the African National Corruption.

Otherwise she’s doing ‘just fine’ based on African value system. This is Africa after all. Water out of taps also don’t really belong in such a value system.

And the Economic Freedom Fuckers will fare much worse (…here you’ll pay municipal rates to have infrastructure demolished until nothing workable is left. Grinding down to its axles. Thereafter we “walk”…the proud African value system.)

And on this note I totally agree with you. I have made that exact statement to my two girls in 1994. One chose to emigrate and one decided to stay… she regrets that decision.

I also specifically mentioned that having grown up for a decade in Zambia in 60’s and 70’s the concept of anything going DOWN is backward thinking.

In their eyes everything has improved – in relation to their own value and standards systems.

Our bad…….

Gil, I had a Swiss friend who flew into Kampala often on business. On one trip in the late 80’s the road into the city was badly potholed. He asked the taxi driver why the road was so bad …? The driver didn’t miss a beat: Sir, the British built it badly in 1948!

It is a world class African city after all.

Love your version of the EFF – never thought of it like that before. I’m probably drinking too much….or not enough.
I’ve go a bottle of tax free gin for you next time I’m in your neck of the woods – just don’t tell Eddy.

Thanks Michael, I really needed a good laugh!

Out of the 3 (passenger) vehicles depicted in the article image, ONLY the RENAULT KWID for example is SUITABLE for such ‘broken city’ environment.


Despite a bit higher body/ground clearance….look at the TYRE aspect ratio. It has nice plump HIGH-PROFILE 155/80R13 tyres, that can FLEX over ‘BROKEN terrain’. 80-profile….that is key.

The other cars don’t really belong in such a broken terrain environment, with their 55-aspect (or lower) tyres.

(Obviously my comment does NOT APPLY to the Western Cape, with their perfectly smooth road surfaces….a characteristic of the ‘Daadwerklike Aksie’ party). There, ‘handling’ is key.

Rest of ANC country….we try to make our rims survive.

As usual more energy is going into changing the name of William Nicol Drive than into the maintenance of it.

It would make sense to rename it though…much more representative of the ruling party, full of cracks, holes and in a terrible condition.

Perhaps also rename one of the crossroads Stompie Seipei for good measure

Herman Mashaba was useless

….didn’t expect such negative comment from you, Dadape 😉

Like Cyril, I am ‘surprised’.

Haha true. But this is not negative. It’s factual! Hahaha.

Not half as useless that the ANC are.

WHat else do you expect from the ANC? They can only destroy and plunder!

Seems Iron Age and subsistence tribal culture doesn’t quite stack up as a basis for an effective management strategy. Who knew?

No surprise here. But we the people will vote for incompetence because we got a free t shirt and a packet of food. You get the govt that you deserve…

Yes. Joburg is broken. It’s being decolonised.

Soweto will move back to huts in the next 2 decades and the Mfecane will begin just as in decolonised lands. Perhaps we will have rain queens and a girl like Nongqawuse can inform the tribes of what they need to do to have great success in the decolonised era.

Being “decolonised” = running tap water is a western concept.

Just catching up to the rest of Africa.

And people still need a reason to vote DA?

Just compare Cape Town with JHB or the mess that the ANC has left Pretoria in!

Correct. And hence why there’s (unwritten) attempts by the ANC to undermine the DA’s success in the WC (or the towns under DA control).

The DA’s success serves an an embarrassment to the ANC. The DA achieves more, with generally lower rates.

Well said Michael and you have touched on something about SA that really grates my carrot. The DA, to me, and by almost all metrics I am aware of, outperforms the ANC. Plus it has recently moved towards genuine non-racism, not the garbage propagated by the ANC.

But many “journalists, columnists and the twitterati” have nothing but criticism for SA’s most “honest” party. Peter Bruce urged voters to throw their weight behind the Ramaphosa ANC, Grootes and Davis seldom have a good word for the DA while TV and radio, seem to me to give the EFF way more airtime than the DA. Then many of these scribblers paint the DA as being the party of white right wingers who want to cling on to power. Absolutely bizarre, traitorous to SA’s people and a measure of how low objectivity has sunk to in SA. These are the curs that wail racism at Helen Zille for articulating the truth. Maddening to me.

When the same collectivist mindset that determines the state of infrastructure in the Transkei or any other traditional communal land moves to the metropole, where that mindset then becomes responsible for the infrastructure, the results cannot be any different to that in the Transkei.

To expect anything else is insanity.

Moneyweb I dare ya’l to go and take photos of the real Jo burg – central cbd – were some parts look like its out of the movie – lord of war – with Nicolas Cage.

It is scary – over run by foreigners – filthy as hell and dangerous.

This country is broken.

No wonder they shoot Hollywood movies in Joburg CBD

Look on the bright side, Jo’burg is ‘fully transformed’.

It is what you get when you handover the country to terrorists

Your fathers should not have kept the voting franchise to themselves.

“Make the country ungovernable!”, “..liberation before education”. And what difference would voting have made? It would be another Zimbabwe even quicker

I get the impression that municipalities and the state exist simply to employ the (mostly) unemployable in the private sector.

Here in Cape Town, it took three weeks to fix an electrical supply issue in roadside underground cables because they smashed the water piping in the process.

I’d like to know the statistics of how many people are leaving this country for work purposes every year.

I want the nation to see what skilled workers are leaving.

I’d like to see the Stats on GDP over the next 10 years.

This is what happens when a first world infrastructure is handed over to a third world regime.

Not just that but the sheer destruction of stuff that worked has been off-the-charts.

Here’s a challenge,…

Take spray paint and brand each pothole “ANC hole”.


That’s a whole lot of “A-holes”!!

Johannesburg has become too big to manage. There is also no reason why Johannesburg should exist anymore. The city should be decentralised. Adding more people, illegal migrants and their children, as well as the corrosive effect of corruption and wasteful expenditure, increasing taxes, and the salaries of a bloated provincial service will lead to the inevitable.

No surprise here. Anything the ANC touches is failing , stripped and destroyed.

Welcome to the rest of SA. The situation is worse where I live.

Cape Town is not hunky-dory either.In an upmarket leafy suburb, electricity trips frequently due to old,non-maintained infrastructure.Meanwhile,property developments continue unabated,even as ‘for sale’ signs loom everywhere, and owners can’t find buyers.

Too many useless people doing nothing but getting paid for it. For a staff salary bill to be 50% of your expenditure is insane…someone somewhere doesn’t understand something!

The reason why Gated Estates are so popular is because they can eventually take control of their environment. Already they have eliminated the need for government security by enforcing their own restrictions. Refuse and recycling is usually centrally controlled too. Soon Gated Estates will generate their own power through solar and find localized solution for water.
That will be the final nail in the coffin for Municipal rates and the thousands of jobs that come from them.
Current Municipality management and inefficiencies have got us to this point.
Necessity is the mother of invention.

End of comments.





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