Defiant residents stand up for their right to sit down
Critics have dubbed South Africa as being ‘great at planning’ but add that we fail dismally at implementation. The National Infrastructure Plan, which was adopted in 2012, aims to transform the economic landscape, create new jobs and curb service delivery protests. Such goals remain to be realised.
With protests spiking in the first eight months of 2012, it was also reported that there were 540 protests between 1 April and 10 May of this year in Gauteng alone. The most common reasons for protests usually relate to housing and land. In Cape Town, however, sanitation is also a huge issue.
Ntsikelelo Galada, a 30-year-old man from Khayelitsha, says that he believes service delivery is particularly poor in black areas as the government does not regard blacks to be human beings. “I am fed up with everything and everyone in this country. Now the ANC people have recruited us to join their volunteering campaign, promising to give us some groceries and a stipend if we recruit more people to join the youth committee in the area. I joined simply because I am unemployed and the food parcels will help me, even though I know it is a short-term thing.”
Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan announced in his 2013 budget speech that R827 billion would be invested in infrastructure. He said this was to help improve access to healthcare facilities, schools, water, sanitation, housing and electricity.
In December of 2009, the Democratic Alliance (DA) was taken to court by the African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL) for the violation of human dignity after the DA had erected unenclosed toilets in the Makhaza informal settlement. Earlier this year, we witnessed dissatisfied Khayelitsha residents taking their frustration to the streets.
Instead of having the situation of unenclosed toilets rectified, residents were further slapped in the face withportable toilets, which they branded ‘pota pota’. This is what led to the blazing ‘poo wars’ in Cape Town. “We are emptying our toilets there because our toilets have smelled for three months,” said former ANC councillor Andile Lili to EyeWitness News. Lili was recalled by the ANC as ward councillor because he was found guilty of being involved in an informal protest. “This is a violation of a human’s right to dignity. We have a right to dignity and we have a right to privacy. All those rights were violated by Helen Zille,” Lili added.The scourge of the ‘poo wars saga’ in Cape Town has led to the suspension of several members of the ANC. ANC provincial secretary Songezo Mjongile said this was due to constant defiance of orders to desist from this action that was bringing the ANC into disrepute.
“It would be good if the ANC could lead the Western Cape again because they obviously care more about us as people. They would never have given people those toilets,” says Galada.
Though living in a home with a fully functional toilet system, Galada explains how and why the people of Khayelitsha have taken the drastic step of venturing into the recent ‘poo wars’. “Would you like to do your toilet business in front of your husband, child or even visitors? Do you think Helen Zille and her friends would even want to try those stupid ‘pota potas’?”
Many believe that these protests are politically driven and pose the question: why are these protests happening in the only city which is not governed by the ANC? And if the ANC is pushing for these protests, why would it recall some of its members?
Whatever the nature of the protest, this has obviously become a huge issue in South Africa. According to the Multi-Level Government Initiative, statistics reveal a drastic growth in public service protests from February 2007 (just under 100 protests) to August 2012 (about 250 protests).
“You see, the only thing we as black people have received from the government so far are these houses. If you look around here you will see that it is filthy. The municipality doesn’t maintain our (black) areas,” adds Galada.
“Those of us who have cars have an additional problem of potholes that are big enough to swallow your car,” said Prince Hoza of the Aba Thembu, who resides in Khayelitsha Site C.
Hoza also believes that the more empty promises the government makes, the more service delivery protests there will be in South Africa. Elections are only seven months away. With so much despondency and anger towards the government for poor service delivery, along with the recent passing of E-tolling, we can only hope for a better South Africa with better services and better governance.