James Masango MPL
DA Chief Whip in Mpumalanga
The Mpumalanga provincial administration is starting to set a precedent by providing services through crisis management. This seems to be the case that communities only seem to be receiving services whenever they embark on violent protest action. This while MEC after MEC tells the Mpumalanga Provincial Legislature how ambitious project after ambitious project is “in the planning stage” and would be implemented in the following financial year – yet very little seems to reach those that need it most.
The latest case in a series of violent protests in the province made news headlines this past week, when residents of Lillydale (approximately 50km northeast of Hazyview) barricaded roads and torched council buildings and equipment over the Bushbuckridge municipality’s lack of service delivery.
The DA yesterday dispatched a team comprising local municipal councillors and research staff to establish the mood of this community, and to listen to their grievances. Our findings were, to say the least, highly concerning. We found a community faced with irregular (and often non-existent) water supply for at least eight months. We found people forced to share water resources with livestock, as the main reservoir has not been filled for years. We heard of the Bushbuckridge municipality’s mayor, Cllr Renias Khumalo promising community members the imminent arrival of water tankers, only to have those waiting for the tankers to escort them to delivery points, arrested.
The DA heard of the MEC for community safety, security and liaison, Mr Vusi Shongwe appealing to the community to calm down and not resort to violence, but not being able to commit government to a timeframe to filling and bringing into operation a bulk water reservoir, that had been built years ago, but still has no water in it.
Following the protests, Mayor Khumalo called an urgent meeting with water officials of all spheres of government, and a resolution was taken to dispatch technicians to the area and establish the reasons for the problematic water supply. The DA was told that the community was promised that water supply would “not be a problem” by Saturday, May 18, and that “technicians would work around the clock” to ensure that this is indeed the case.
How many more plans, promises and feasibility studies must be done before any are implemented? How many more tenders have to be awarded to service providers who do not have the skills or financial needs to bring water to the people?
The ANC-led government has to face up to the fact that it is the cause of this vicious cycle of violent protests. The ANC employs officials according to their political affiliation, regardless of their skills and competencies, and awards government contracts in a similar fashion. Services do not reach the poor, causing them to revolt in. A dangerous trend is developing that only once communities make news headlines across the country and the rest of the world, that the ANC suddenly wakes up and runs around like a headless chicken trying to resolve the crisis – which could very easily have been avoided.
The DA absolutely sympathises with the plight of the people of Lillydale, as well as the thousands of others in our deep rural areas, who have patiently waited for government officials who dedicate their time and effort to serving their own selfish needs.
This province lost more than R3billion in the 2011/12 financial year, and almost the same in the year before due to poor management, as well as fruitless, wasteful and negligent expenditure. This figure excludes the almost R2 billion wasted by municipalities in the same period. This money could have and should have reached the desperate and the poor, and brought them much needed services, without having to resort to violence.
It is clearer than ever before that the ANC’s ability to deliver services to the poor is non-existent. In our medium to long term future, delivery following protest action is unsustainable – and ultimately the only way residents can bring delivery to their communities, will be by electing a DA government.