Tue Oct 25 01:46:36 SAST 2016
Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Des Van Rooyen. Picture Credit: Gallo Images
Van Rooyen suddenly withdraws his interdict

In another twist involving the public protector’s office‚ the Minister of Co-operative Governance an.

WaBenzis don't care to deliver

By Don Makatile | Oct 06, 2009 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

As the embers slowly begin to lose their heat in Sakhile, Standerton, the only consolation is that other municipalities hitherto untouched by service delivery protests might pause to reflect, using the disruptions in the Mpumalanga township as a mirror into their own affairs.

But given the recalcitrance of many city fathers nationwide, such optimism has tended to fade with time.

South Africa is run by 283 municipalities across the country. Many of these remain little known until they burst into news headlines with residents taking their gripes over lack of service delivery to the streets. Almost always, the protests turn violent, with the personal property of councillors often being razed to the ground.

In Sakhile, the residents attacked their "own" property - a local library was gutted.

But it appears there's a pattern to the madness of service delivery protests even when, here and there, they seem to go off at a tangent, encompassing acts like xenophobic attacks, which are on the periphery of the issues at hand.

It has become almost a fait accompli that municipalities get qualified audit reports. The South African Local Government Association reported in 2007 that the country's municipalities were in debt to R40billion.

Finding a municipality where those who hold the purse strings have their finger on the pulse is tantamount to looking for a needle in a haystack. The small town of Hoopstad in the Free State falls within such a broader municipality where authorities do not have an uncanny relationship with ratepayers' money.

But that's just one!

Consumption mentality

The sad trend, it would seem, is set by the likes of Emalahleni mayor Linah Malatjie, who was bent on "replacing her existing Mercedes-Benz E240 with a new E320 model - at a cost of R475000".

This pales into insignificance given the conspicuous consumption mentality displayed by those in power like Communications Minister Siphiwe Nyanda, who spent just more than R1million each on two identical BMW saloons.

But with Malatjie, the problem is that "residents of Spring Valley are outraged, insisting that the money could be used better to upgrade their living conditions".

The principal of a primary school in the area, Magareth Mabena, pointed out that it would cost the council a mere R10000 "to buy our school a new and bigger water tank".

WaBenzi Malatjie had other thoughts!

The supply of water, over other amenities, is at the root of many of these service delivery protests.

The Emalahleni example comes from an essay penned by Mike Muller. He notes: "As South Africa entered its second decade of democracy, the challenges of building a new society became clearer. In particular, the tension between the need to address historic inequalities and poverty and the imperative of building a black capitalist class has become acute.

"In this context, water and motor cars, or more correctly, who has access to what kind of water service and who drives what make of car, have become two defining features of post-apartheid society."

From struggle to delivery

Muller's contribution is one of several contained in a book, The Politics of Service Delivery, funded by the Graduate School of Public Development Management at the University of the Witwatersrand.

It makes for interesting reading and should be as much a part of a mayor's office as the shiny set of wheels outside many a town hall.

Anne McLennan, one of the two editors, points out that one of the key arguments in the book is that the service delivery protests reflect the challenges of moving from a politics of struggle and resistance to one of delivery and democracy.

Amid the din of protest, the loudest chant in Sakhile has been the call for President Jacob Zuma to visit the strife-torn township.

To do what exactly, account for the sins of non-delivery by his foot soldiers?

"It may also be that there's a sense of betrayal," McLennan adds, "that promises made have not been kept, but also some weariness with being asked to wait for the benefits of democracy."

The new democratic order inherited a lot that's bad from our apartheid past. Fact. But moving the country into the ruling party's ideal of a developmental state has had its inherent shortcomings.

The quest for a leaner and meaner public service has not helped most municipalities as the experience of white employees was lost. These in turn returned as consultants, at exorbitant fees.

Wendy Mgoma, another contributor to the book, makes the point that apartheid groomed her public servants from school. The new South Africa doesn't.


Login OR Join up TO COMMENT