Angry voices demand water and electricity not empty promises

Ann Bernstein

Ann Bernstein

Voices of Anger, a study on resident protests against municipal mismanagement using Phume-lela in the eastern Free State and Khutsong on the West Rand as case studies, has recently been published by The Centre for Development and Enterprise. This an extract:

In both municipalities, the primary source of discontent was poor water provision, compounded by poor sanitation, which in some instances resulted in sewage flowing into the streets and leaking into rivers and dams. Interrupted electricity supplies and poor garbage collection were added sources of irritation, especially for business people in both the towns and the townships. These problems united a wide cross-section of the population, prompting petitions and memoranda of demand. Protest action in Phumelela followed more than a year of meetings between various community groups and council representatives.

Members of focus groups in Phumelela heavily emphasised the sense of grievance felt by citizens about the unreliability of their representatives.

One said: "What I learnt from the protests is that our provincial, district and local officials are liars. They are quick to make promises, but when it is time to fulfil those promises, they look for scapegoats."

When asked what should be done to prevent similar protests in the future, an interviewee said: "Make sure that whatever is agreed upon at the public meetings is done." - Ann Bernstein is an executive director of CDE.