I have always perceived City of Johannesburg Executive Mayor Amos Masondo to be of a very sedate nature. I also know him to have impeccable struggle credentials which he earned as part of the black consciousness movement and later as a member of the mass democratic movement.
A section marked "noteworthy events" in his resume posted on a news24.com site reads: "[Masondo] has been involved in the 1992 rolling mass action, securing a train accord and the building of numerous democratic structures in the PWV region.
l Detained under emergency regulations June 1985 to March 1986 and July 1986 to 1989.
l Joined the Allied Workers' Union in 1981 while working as a labourer at Josiah Parkes & Sons. l Joined early black consciousness organisations such as the South African Students' Movement (SASM) 1972; involved in establishment of clandestine networkers and formation of underground cells in Soweto during 1974. Sentenced to Robben Island for ANC activities 1975 to 1981."
Of importance is that Masondo was involved in the development of "numerous democratic structures".
The point is that Masondo could not have been involved in the development of these democratic structures unless he believed in democracy and was therefore a democrat himself.
Today Masondo is the political head of the largest metropole in the country - faced with the responsibility of ensuring that its citizens enjoy all the rights and freedom entrenched in our Constitution.
Unfortunately, what he did this week negates the principles that drove him to become an activist and eventually a politician.
He forgot the fact that as the executive mayor of Johannesburg he has the responsibility of, firstly addressing the needs of all the city's citizens, including minorities, and secondly to uphold the spirit of the country's Constitution.
On Wednesday Masondo launched a scathing attack on Judge Moroa Tsoka who had ruled that the forced installation of pre-paid meters in Phiri, Soweto, was unconstitutional.
The judgment followed a challenge by Phiri residents who are opposed to the city's Operation Gcin'amanzi which involves the installation of pre-paid meters.
Joburg City spokesman Virgil James said the problem for the city was the large amount of water that is unaccounted for.
The city had therefore introduced Operation Gcin'amanzi, which gave households 6kL of free water a month. The rest had to be paid for.
James said they installed pre-paid meters in areas where there was a "culture of non-payment" but that this was not a punitive measure.
In his judgment, Tsoka said it was inexplicable that some residents of the city were entitled to water on credit, plus the free allocation of 6kl a household a month, while the people of Phiri were denied water on credit.
"In spite of the fact that they are poor, they are expected to pay for water before they use it. Their counterparts, who are affluent and mainly rich and in white areas, irrespective of how much water they use, are entitled to water on credit. The differentiation, in my view, contravenes the right to equality."
Tsoka said the underlying basis for the introduction of pre-paid meters seems to be credit control.
"If this is true, I am unable to understand why this credit control measure is only suitable in the historically poor black areas and not historically rich white areas. Bad payers cannot be described in terms of colour or geographical areas. Bad debt is a human problem, not a racial problem."
This week Masondo accused Tsoka of interfering in the responsibility of the government.
"Judges must limit their role to what they are supposed to do. If they want to run the country they must join political parties and contest elections. In that way they can assume responsibilities beyond their powers," the mayor said during a media briefing where he announced that the city would contest Tsoka's ruling.
Masondo went on to say that Tsoka based his ruling on a challenge by "a small group of residents in Phiri".
It is indeed the city's prerogative to legally contest Tsoka's ruling.
However, the attacks on Tsoka smack of political interference. What Masondo seems to be calling for is judges who are docile and the lapdogs of politicians and their bureaucrats.
And what happened to the protection of minority rights? Whether the challenge was made by a small group is immaterial.
What is important is whether the court is of the opinion that by forcefully installing pre-paid meters, the city was "unfairly discriminating against a group of people who are poor and black".
Such an act would be in contravention of the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act of 2000.
Our democracy allows Masondo and his team to go and challenge the court's view on the matter. Instead, Masondo decided to go against section 165 of our Constitution which reads thus: "No person or organ of the state may interfere with the functioning of the courts."
His attack on Tsoka amounts to the interference that the Constitution is speaking against.