The Unlit Saga of Johannesburg’s Council Venue
In an unexpected turn of events, the scheduled City of Johannesburg council gathering couldn’t proceed this Wednesday. The culprits? A combination of electrical glitches and a water shut-off at Johannesburg Metro Centre located in Braamfontein.
No Virtual Rescue in Sight
Load Shedding Darkens Alternative Paths
The council’s decision not to switch to a virtual meeting setup caught some by surprise. However, the Speaker, Colleen Makhubele, provided clarity, pointing out that, “a virtual meeting will not be practical due to load shedding,” especially considering potential blackouts at councillors’ residences.
Recalling the incidents leading to this debacle, the Metro Centre had been cleared out after a fire incident tied to malfunctioning transformers on 16th September. This unfortunate event left the building powerless, both metaphorically and literally.
Makhubele, in her communication to the council members, emphasized the potential risks: “use of the facility poses a health and safety risk for the attendees,” which encapsulates officials and any residents attending the council’s proceedings.
High Costs, Few Alternatives
The search for alternate venues didn’t yield feasible results either. Makhubele stated, “The suitable council facilities are unavailable on the said date and external facilities are too costly.” To further elucidate the cost factor, external venues would set the council back by over R1 million without even accounting for food provisions. By comparison, a typical council meeting generally incurs a cost of around R600,000, covering aspects like security, food, and live broadcast.
As of now, there’s a tentative plan to secure a Brixton venue for a council meeting slated for late October.
Emails Down, Updates Awaited
Post-fire, City Manager Floyd Brink and Johannesburg Property Company (JPC) CEO Helen Botes had planned a press briefing on the Metro Centre’s situation. However, that got shelved with promises of rescheduling within 48 hours – a deadline that’s come and gone without any updates.
Compounding the challenges, internal email communications are currently inactive. This disruption has crippled the council’s ability to communicate effectively, delaying necessary resolutions.
Looking Back and Ahead
In a candid moment, Makhubele voiced concerns for the locals: “My concern is for residents who come to the building because it is the centre of service delivery.” With employees now operating from their homes post the fire, she commented, “The transformers have burnt yet again. We have made plans to secure working venues, but I don’t know where the process is at the moment.”
On a sobering note, historical records indicate a recommendation to vacate the Metro Centre building post a 2016 fire. With another fire earlier this year in March, the conversations around vacating seem to be reignited, begging the question: Will the council act now?