My fellow South Africans
Of all the responsibilities that a government has towards its citizens, the most fundamental are those listed upfront in our Constitution, in the Bill of Rights. And arguably the most important of these is the right to sufficient and clean water.
What we see here in Siyanqoba is a government that has failed in its most basic duty towards its citizens. In a province notorious for water delivery issues, the municipality of Emalahleni is the very worst, with the highest rate of water outages in Mpumalanga and among the highest water losses in the country through leaks. And a place like Siyanqoba bears the brunt of this failure.
As with so many other areas of the country, the ANC government’s solution to the ongoing water delivery issue is makeshift and temporary: They install JoJo tanks and then they truck in water. But even this has brought untold problems to the community here, as the tanks were dirty right from the start, and the water they bring here is not drinking quality. Some residents have even reported worms in the water from the municipal tanks.
The water issue here is compounded by so many other delivery failures. I have been told that, in many places, raw sewage runs between the houses. The build quality of these houses is also clearly way below any acceptable standard. This was a recent government housing development, but you would never say so. Many of them started falling apart as soon as they’d been completed, and residents often have to deal with water streaming in through windows and doors.
This is not how a caring government serves its citizens. But, thanks to decades of systemic corruption and the practice of deploying party-loyal cadres across all government departments, this is the best they can do. What you see here in this community is probably as good as it gets under an ANC government paralyzed by its own corruption and policies.
The bitter irony is that Emalahleni means “place of coal”. It is situated on a massive coal deposit, and not far from here is Kusile, the largest coal-fired power station in Africa and the Southern Hemisphere. This should be a place of industry and commerce; of opportunity and jobs. And yet Emalahleni has constant power outages and this has wreaked havoc in the local economy. The worst example of this was when Highveld Steel had to close its doors two years ago, which led to huge job losses.
This is what happens when a government loses sight of its purpose – when being in power becomes a selfish goal. The needs – and indeed the rights – of people are abandoned and the entire game becomes one of enrichment of the connected few.
That’s why the former mayor of this municipality, and now MEC of sports and culture, Lindiwe Ntshalintshali, thought nothing of appointing her boyfriend in her department. That kind of nepotism becomes the very reason for staying in power, and the real responsibilities of government come a distant second.
That’s also how many of the 20 new traffic cops appointed in the municipality have family or romantic connections to ANC leaders. That’s their business model: Connected insiders get the opportunities and the benefits, and everyone else is left outside.
If you live in a municipality where this happens, then you are not getting the benefit of living in a free and democratic society. You are entitled to so much more. Our Constitution guarantees this. But in order to realise this right, you have to do your bit too. This means using your vote to either reward a government that you think is upholding its end of the deal, or firing them if they have let you down.
This is the only way a democracy can properly function. It has to be a two-way contract between you and government. And in this contract, all the power should lie in your hands. If you feel you’re not getting the service you are entitled to – if there is sewage in your street, if your water is undrinkable, if your power can’t stay on, if you are excluded from opportunities because you’re not politically connected – then the only way to solve this is with your vote.