Legislature must deliver on the prospect of a new tomorrow

James Masango MPL

Provincial Chief Whip of the Official Opposition.

This is the address of James Masango, MPL, during the closing debate of Taking Legislature to the People, Mkhondo.

Honourable Speaker, as part of the Legislature’s programme of Taking Legislature to the People, we came to the Mkhondo Local Municipality to listen to communities, and to bring them hope of a new tomorrow, one filled with opportunity, where people have access to basic services, and have been freed from the shackles of poverty and inequality.

For the past four days we saw first-hand, the conditions that the good people of Mkhondo have to live in, and we gave them the opportunity to see their provincial political leadership discuss the business of governance in Mpumalanga.

Honourable Speaker, we came here and we listened, and now we have to deliver. But, I fear this is where we run the biggest risk of failing. I think the time has come for us to pause, and consider our achievements, since starting the project of Taking Legislature to the People.

We went to a number of municipalities in the province, where we offered residents and communities the same hope that we just brought to the people of Mkhondo. We visited Msukaligwa, Thaba Chweu, Lekwa, and Dr JS Moroka, to name but a few. We have to question ourselves now: “What have we achieved in these municipalities?”

We brought hope to the residents of Msukaligwa, only to see it crushed by massive service delivery protests in Wesselton.

In Thaba Chweu, residents have now reached the point where they will be submitting a complaint to the Human Rights Commission, because the municipality and provincial administration has abandoned them.

In Lekwa, residents are living under a cloud of uncertainty because Eskom may soon cut off their electricity supply.

And while the result of our last visit to the Dr JS Moroka municipality may or may not bear fruit, residents are muttering over the municipality having to pay over R1million in damages and legal fees, because of the sexual misconduct of its former Municipal Manager.

Honourable Speaker, we owe the people of Mkhondo better results. While it may be convenient for MEC after MEC to stand at the podium during question time and defer questions as “municipal matters”, we as the provincial political leadership cannot ignore the needs of our constituents. We have been given the mandate to serve the people, and that we must do.

The provincial administration has a duty and commitment to ordinary people to ensure that their needs are met. We have to support our local municipalities in every way to ensure that people get what they need, and not what we think they need.

Honourable Speaker, not one of the complaints we heard from the community in this house yesterday, is new. Many of these were raised with councils across the province as well as provincial government, and they were not attended to. One issue that came up over and over again is access to water. And where there is access to water, it is unfit for human consumption. We heard repeated complaints of people having to share water resources with animals. Water is a basic right, enshrined in our constitution, and we have to deliver.

Proper housing, as in many other municipalities, is another problem. In 2009 the premier’s 100-day project to build over 600 houses failed. After more than three years, the Department of Human Settlements has still not reached this target. Corruption in delivering housing remains the talk of the day, despite government’s promises to deal with perpetrators. It is time to stop talking, and to start acting – not just against corrupt officials, but also against contractors who deliver sub-standard housing units, if at all.

Honourable Speaker, roads in Mkhondo are in a terrible state. Not only are tarred roads riddled with potholes, but township and rural communities are inaccessible because the roads are in a bad state. We heard repeated complaints of ambulances not reaching patients, police vehicles not reaching crime scenes, and people having to carry the sick to the nearest tar road for ambulances to collect them.

The DA is highly concerned over reports of farm workers being abused, and we believe that not enough is being done to ensure the basic rights of labourers. The constitution of South Africa guarantees equality and human dignity, and we believe that it is government’s responsibility to protect all its citizens, including farm workers, from abuse. To this end, we call on government to engage with farmers and farm workers alike, and work towards a solution that benefits all parties.

Honourable Speaker, we as Legislature know what is required of us, but government is a two-way street. While we listen to the people, and provide for their needs, communities have a responsibility towards government: Today, we call on all community members to respect our constitution, and not to resort to violence and damaging government property whenever they are not satisfied with service delivery.

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