UPDATES: Parkhurst's parking pandemonium

The Johannesburg kerbside parking controversy isn’t going away. As reported in nose149, the good people of Joburg will in future be charged for parking by marshals employed by Ace Parking, a company that will keep 75% of the revenue and which appears to be owned by one person, Juliet Paulsen. The payment system has been in place in Braamfontein and the CBD for some time, has recently spread to Parkhurst and will be reaching out to many more suburbs shortly.

On 6 March, Mervyn Smith Attorneys submitted an Access to Information request to the city,  together with a demand that the implementation of the parking system be suspended pending the response. The attorneys, acting for “a number of concerned world class citizens”, want a raft of documents including minutes of meetings, information regarding the tender process for the contract, the contract itself, the letter of appointment, documentation explaining how the 20 affected areas were chosen, and documentation showing how the hourly parking rate of R8 was determined. Their letter quotes liberally from the Noseweek article, and makes some interesting new claims:

  • The system is shambolic. It was introduced to Parkhurst without notice in January when a firm called Servest suddenly started demanding a fee of R8-an-hour for parking, which caused an uproar. On talk radio, metro police spokesman Chief Superintendent Wayne Minnaar phoned in to say even he didn’t know what was going on, and he would be suspending the system while he sorted out the matter. Parkhurst residents then made submissions to the city, asking for, inter alia, free parking for 15–30 minutes. But these requests were ignored. And then, suddenly, Ace Parking appeared on the scene demanding the parking charge.
  • The system is “unlawful, immoral and unconstitutional”. Why? Because the Constitution provides that the purpose of local government is to provide democratic and accountable government for communities and to ensure the provision of services in a sustainable manner. However, the document that has been seen (a blank agreement) shows that no municipal services are being provided and that this is simply a revenue-generating exercise: parking meters are even referred to as a “revenue collection system” and the stated aim of the agreement is to “remove all costs and financial risks from the city in respect of providing a kerbside parking solution”. Parking meters, say the concerned citizens, should be a means of facilitating traffic management rather than of generating revenue.
  • There’s been a lack of transparency and a breach of the city’s obligation to provide democratic and accountable government. Why on earth is there a confidentiality clause in the  contract between the city and Ace Parking? And why did Ace Parking refuse to tell Noseweek whether it had been given an equally generous revenue share by the many other towns where it has contracts?
  • The contract between the city and Ace Parking was signed  a year before the bylaws were amended to provide for a parking system.
  • In the agreement, the city has agreed not to cancel or reduce any parking fine – this limits the discretion the city should have in these matters.
  • The city suspended the provisions of a previous parking management contract with a company called International Parking Management (Pty) Ltd, which gave the company 90% of the fine revenue. The reason is that the Director of Public Prosecutions told the city he objected to contracts that gave private companies a percentage of fine revenue, because private companies are motivated by profit rather than traffic law enforcement.
  • No explanation has been given as to how the 20 affected areas – listed in nose149 – were chosen. To hazard a guess, perhaps the City of Johannesburg has chosen areas where it believes the residents can afford to pay for parking and where they’re unlikely to lynch anyone asking them to do so.
  • In Parkhurst, the system is already being abused, with marshals demanding R8 up front, irrespective of the proposed stay, despite the fact that there is a R4-per-half-hour option.

The recent Cosatu e-tolling protest march shows that the people of Johannesburg are not prepared to pay for the privilege of driving on their roads. We suspect that they may feel as strongly about having to pay to park on their roads too.

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