Pali Lehohla, former Statistics South Africa head, also thinks free trade contributes to employment creation and increased incomes. Photo: Thobile Mathonsi/African News Agency (ANA)
Pali Lehohla, former Statistics South Africa head, also thinks free trade contributes to employment creation and increased incomes. Photo: Thobile Mathonsi/African News Agency (ANA)

OPINION: State and government is a contested terrain

By Pali Lehohla Time of article published May 20, 2019

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JOHANNESBURG - State and government is a contested terrain.  Public Protector Busi Mkwebane has been called upon to Alexander failed housing project.  

Initial as the revelations are, they are classically apartheid style – state fueled conflict amongst citizens.  And modern day liberators seem to have powered the monster. . 

The Alexander renewal project is a replica of the Winterveldt apartheid style governance amplified by Bophuthatswana.  In 1989 I came to understand an invaluable lesson of how these inherent contradictions of a state inspired conflict manifest themselves with immense anxiety, instability and destruction of economic and social life.  

Working as a development researcher for Agricor, I had to establish the economic and social parameters that would enable an irrigation scheme in Jericho.  

The irrigation would be possible by using the water from the Klipgaat sewerage treatment plant.  By constructing a pipe that would run through Winterveldt the water would be diverted from Toloane River and would reach the vast farmlands in Jericho.  

Winterveldt was established as part of the Tomlinson Commission and the betterment scheme for homelands. It was subdivided into agricultural plots for the Mahlangu, Baloyi and many other families.

No sooner were the allocations made, beneficiaries started to trade farming for rental stock to the lumpen proletariat who erected own shacks.  However, without services the tenants rebelled and many landlords were chased out.  

During my research I learnt that many of them were residents of Alexander and Soweto.  But the crisis did not end with the tenants refusing to pay rent for the shacks they erected.  Many would not get civic services such as registration of births of their children and identification documents because the landlords owed the central government rentals for the plots they were allocated. A vicious cycle of state sponsored conflict emerged with demand for services increasing when the homeland government developed formal housing with services at the Mabopane facing edge of Winterveldt.  

But these developments could go no further because the land leases were with the evicted landlords who were now in Alex and Soweto and there was scant enthusiasm to trace them.  The prospect of a Kliphaat – Jericho water pipeline renewed the tenants’ hopes of housing and better services with the interests of Bophuthatswana government and tenants as both sought to unseat the absentee landlords.  But a point of disagreement remained access to the water for the tenants.

The life of the conception of the project was cut short by the release of late president Nelson Mandela from prison.  The uncertain tenants went wild and invaded the land in adjoining areas of Hebron, Kgabalatsane and towards Stinkwater where they erected their new shacks.  Winterveldt remained with only 70 percent of its original population of 1985 when this exodus happened.  Many schools were left with half tha and education disrupted.

As the Director of Statistics in Bophuthatswana I was able to establish the extent of the impact of Winterveldt depopulation of schools and households in the 1991 Census with facts.  

South African policy space is replete with state inspired conflict ravaging citizens. With two million houses constructed, heightened access to water and electricity for citizens and social grants you would expect that the system would be a slick predictable dispenser of justice with each citizen assured in the knowledge that “my turn will come.”  But with Zondo Commission and lived experiences of citizens – the state has become the prime perpetrator of conflict with its patronage networks.  

Without analysis there cannot be a science based plan. There can be no diagnosis, prediction, transparency, accountability nor any enduring and sensible development communication and genuine citizen engagement.   

Alexander represents a state inspired conflict amongst citizens – a microcosm of our immense challenges.  

And this is 25 years into our democracy. 

Dr Pali Lehohla is the former Statistician-General and the former head of Statistics South Africa.  Meet him at and twitter @PaliLehohla. 


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