New finance MMC Professor Rabelani Dagada. Picture:Paballo Thekiso
Johannesburg - A spat has erupted between the ANC and the DA over reports that member of mayoral committee (MMC) for finance, Rabelani Dagada, is to be axed over the Joburg billing crisis.

The ANC in Joburg on Wednesday put out a statement saying that they had learnt, “without any surprise”, about the imminent axing of Dagada.

“At the beginning of the term of office, Mashaba presented councillor Dagada as a competent and highly qualified individual who would take the city’s finance department to new heights.

“The imminent firing of councillor Dagada comes amid continued problems in the city’s revenue department regarding the escalating billing crisis, which in the words of the mayor has reached unprecedented proportions.

“The recent emotionally charged outbursts by Mashaba on billing and his flimsy commitment to take over the resolution of the billing crisis are just a smokescreen to project Mashaba as a no-nonsense leader who is committed to fix problems,” said ANC Joburg spokesperson Jolidee Matongo.

“The truth of the matter is that mayor Mashaba has messed up the system and now seeks a sacrificial lamb to take the blame for his ill-thought decisions. Mashaba changed the executive management team of the revenue department three times in 12 months.”

It was Mashaba, said Matongo, who went in, guns blazing, to destroy the very foundation of the city’s finance and revenue-generating capacity without which the city runs a risk of being broke.

“The decision to fire Dagada is to save the DA’s face and spur Mashaba from the wrath of the citizens. The real culprit who should be fired is Mashaba for collapsing the finances of the city that, by all accounts, were healthy,” he added.

Matongo added that Dagada had been fired as executive business leader and chairperson of the governance cluster, so his axing was imminent despite statements by the DA to the contrary.

Tanya Venter, from the mayor’s office, said Dagada was not being axed. The DA, and Dagada himself, also denied he was about to be fired or suspended.

In an interview with The Star on Wednesday, Dagada said: “I am neither suspended nor removed from the mayoral committee. In fact, the mayor has recently assigned group IT to my portfolio, which is a sign of confidence.”

Dagada said he was released as chair of governance and leader of executive business to ensure he had more time to deal with his main portfolio, which is finance.

“I couldn’t continue doing all this additional work. I requested to be released. I was not removed,” he said.

Dagada said billing problems span a number of departments from which the finance department receives incorrect data that leads to incorrect billing.

Dagada dismissed allegations that the billing crisis had increased under the DA.

He said he inherited the new regionalisation policy which gives residents the option of the date of payment and which resulted in many people being billed twice in one month.

“I gave a directive to stop it, but it was too late. We only have 40000 affected customers out of one million, which is still too much, but we have ring-fenced these and reversed cut-offs and interest, and will rehabilitate their accounts.

“We also understand the frustration of councillors who have to deal with residents’ cut-offs - in many cases the people who voted us in, but we cannot stop suspensions for non-payments.”

He said regionalisation had many benefits as readings were done every seven days, instead of 21 days.

Dagada added that repeated disconnections would not stop. “If we do that, the city will be bankrupt in 60 days. There are many people, especially businesses, who are hiding behind the so-called billing crisis not to pay.”

Although he approved the statement earlier this week that the mayor was personally intervening, Dagada, said, in hindsight, he regrets approving it. “This gives people an excuse to hide behind.”

The Star