Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Case of Sannieshof

We can breathe a collective sigh of relief that the World Cup visitors and celebrities didn't venture further than the 5-star hotels and the soccer stadiums to assess the authentic South Africa. Perhaps they should have visited Sannieshof in the North West Province where an ANC local government's real capacity to "do it" can be measured.

Claiming credit for the World Cup success - as did ex President Thabo Mbeki - as an "African triumph" is misplaced. The Cup was held in South Africa, not "Africa" and the country should be judged on how it is run on a day-to-day basis, and whether the iconic rulers basking in the spotlight have really achieved anything for the people they purported to represent during the "struggle".

If the ANC government cannot run a municipality, how can they take credit for running the World Cup? Local government in South Africa under ANC control is epitomized by the travesty of Sannieshof, and it is worth telling the world that national and international euphoria about iconic birthdays is not only misplaced, but is skewed. Whose party is responsible for the degradation of South Africa's municipalities, not to mention other arms of government? Is this ANC legacy to be lauded and applauded?

Let us look at municipalities, the successful running of which is taken for granted in most of the world. Cleaning the streets, removing the rubbish, maintaining the sewage systems, repairing the roads - elementary one would say. Not in South Africa! After inheriting world class local government in 1994, the ANC has destroyed - or is destroying - these structures so effectively that, for example, there is presently four million litres of raw sewage in the streets of Sannieshof!

The story of Sannieshof should be placed before Leonardo di Caprio, Morgan Freeman and John Travolta. They are in thrall to our first ANC president, but he himself has had nothing to say about the dire straits in which the residents of this NW town- both black and white - find themselves under his party's rule.

In November 2007, the ratepayers of three NW towns - Sannieshof, Delareyville and Ottosdal - and the surrounding farms officially declared a dispute with Tswaing municipality. It was about sanitation and the lack of potable water, inter alia. Calling themselves the Sannieshof Residents Ratepayers Union (SIBU) under the leadership of Ms. Carien Visser, they decided to hold back municipal utility payments and to fix the problems themselves. Ratepayers would pay SIBU and not the council. Instead of hanging their heads in shame, the ANC-controlled municipal officials took SIBU to court! (This attitude is very much part of the ANC's government's no-shame, no-accountability mentality!)

Currently, with less than five workers and a few volunteers, SIBU has taken over municipal government in the area. SIBU has become a municipality within a municipality! Residents have learned to stand together, across the racial divide. SIBU has attended to the complaints of the neighbouring townships, and these black residents are joining hands with their white counterparts against the ANC's arrogant non-performance.

SIBU's white ratepayers have taken the black townships under their wing. SIBU has clout because it has money. It is typical that the ANC-run council has abandoned the blacks - there are only three public taps for more than 1 500 residents and only one is operational! There is no municipal sanitation service - residents must make do with shallow holes next to their makeshift homes. (So much for the ANC's election slogan "a better life for all"!)

Most residents in the black areas do not pay rates and taxes - they were told by the ANC in the 2009 pre-election campaign that it was acceptable to withhold payment. It is not coincidental that 2009 will go down in history as the year of violent non-service-delivery protests in South Africa's townships!


The ANC's approach to this situation is vindictive or dismissive towards those who complain, especially towards Ms. Carien Visser, a woman alone who has fought the ANC council for more than five years.

Despite a 2009 report issued by the government's Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) underscoring the critical state of affairs prevailing in South African local government (of the country's 283 municipalities, 80% experience problems with sanitation and potable water, and there has not been a clean audit approved for most of them), the ANC continues to ignore its own warnings! Its commitment to placing its own cadres in public positions has blinded it to its duties to supply the better life for all that it promised! President Jacob Zuma is deceiving the public when he says that government "will apply World Cup success strategies to increase the strategic focus of government" and that government will identify "the key outputs and activities required to achieve the outcome". (Citizen 23.7.10)

These are words, just words. In one appointments advertisement after another, government departments declare there must be "employment equity (EE)" in employment policy. (Read "no whites need apply".) Examples: recent Gauteng Department of Agriculture and Rural Development's full-page ads for highly skilled posts carry the EE proviso, as do ads for Eastern Cape hospitals, the above-mentioned government department COGTA and various municipalities. This EE approach has been going on for years. Business Day of 6 July carried EE government ads juxtaposed with ads from Saudi Arabia, Australia, the United Kingdom, West and East Africa for everyone from engineers to IT specialists, to town planners. Merit was the key requirement in those ads.


One often sees black slums in Africa on TV where sewage runs down the streets, and garbage lies rotting in the sun. Residents find it unacceptable, but they live with it. Not so Sannieshof ratepayers - there are some things where one draws the line! ( A black township resident took it upon herself to try and repair one of the broken taps - she was reprimanded by the local councillor because she "interfered" with the work of municipal officials!)

The private sector in South Africa has had to take up the slack of recalcitrant and incompetent ANC councillors. In Sannieshof, letters to the council go unanswered for months, even years. Talks get nowhere, only promises are made which are not kept. There is no maintenance - sewage pumps are broken, water supply is sporadic, rubbish is all over the place, and even borehole water is contaminated. The streets are full of potholes, and Ms. Visser's committee had to use a fire brigade truck to take water to township dwellers.

In one instance, municipal officials declared that to repair a pump and cable, R2 million would be needed. Ms. Visser's committee repaired everything for R12 000! Financial mismanagement is the order of the day. Municipal boreholes are not working, storm water drains are blocked and the towns 1699 water meters are out of order. If a fire broke out in the town, the fire brigade would have to travel more than 45 km to get water!

The SIBU committee's initiative has saved the town from complete collapse, yet Tswaing's municipal manager took Ms. Visser to court in April 2009 "because what Ms. Visser is doing is illegal"! The town's rates and taxes were around R21,7 million in arrears. The two neighbouring towns owed R27,2 and R46,7 million respectively.

But SIBU had a case - they had declared a dispute and after two years, the Council had still not responded satisfactorily. Ms.Visser and her team then proceeded to repair the Waste Water Treatment Works (WWTW), while an officer of the council - in the presence of the police - told her she would be prosecuted for trespassing! The committee spent R45 000 trying to service the pumps, and a further R20 000 repairing the black township's sewage pump. While her team was repairing the pumps, she was removed by the police on instructions of a council official and taken to the police station where a case of trespassing was opened against her. When she arrived at the magistrates court later, the case had been thrown out by a - thankfully sane - magistrate.

(It is worth noting that in 2006 already, 79 of 231 municipalities employed not a single civil engineer, while the six major metropoles between them had only 732 civil engineers to serve a population of more than 15,6 million. More ominous is the fact that there were 30 000 annual registered apprentices in the late 1970s and early 1980s but the number had dropped to less than 2 000 in 2005. Who is going to fix things at municipalities when these men - many approaching retirement age - retire? The ANC's cadres?)

A November 2009, 65-page NW University report on the antics of the Tswaing Council makes scary reading and the fact that Ms. Visser continues to try and maintain what are to most people decent living standards in her town and the neighbouring townships is nothing short of a miracle. Reams of correspondence to the council have been provided to TAU SA and it is clear that not many people in the world would put up with the blind arrogance, incompetence and contempt meted out to the residents of these towns by the ANC.

Will the residents of these towns throw out the ANC in next year's municipal elections, as they appear to be doing in some areas of South Africa? We quote from the foreword of Anthea Jeffery's book Chasing the Rainbow- From Mandela to Zuma: The ANC's plan is complete control of the State. "Relentless pursuit of these objectives has placed broad swathes of South African life under the control of cadres whose first loyalty is to the party, not the people. Anyone seeking to understand the ANC's tolerance of incompetence and malfeasance in parastatals, key bureaucracies and municipalities would do well to grasp this principle. The achievement of racial quotas is seen as an absolute good, even if the cure inadvertently cripples the patient. Why does our rail system experience eight accidents or collisions every day? Why are seventy percent of our sewage plants on the verge of collapse?"

The answer is in Ms. Jeffery's book which should be required reading for Messrs. di Caprio, Freeman, Travolta and, yes, those who are now punting South Africa for the Olympic Games.

Source: TAU SA, July 26 2010

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