Dr Pali Lehohla is the former statistician-general of South Africa and former head of Statistics South Africa. Photo: Thobile Mathonsi
Dr Pali Lehohla is the former statistician-general of South Africa and former head of Statistics South Africa. Photo: Thobile Mathonsi

Voting day: Chance to choose our leaders and turn things around in the country

By Pali Lehohla Time of article published Oct 24, 2021

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In eight days is the time South Africans will fulfil an important obligation of the Freedom Charter and the Constitution of the country.

This is an obligation to choose freely those who are to become people’s representatives for the next five years. The hopefuls have traversed the country, promising what they will achieve if they are elected.

The backdrop of the local government is different from previous ones. The Covid-19 pandemic has cast a dark cloud on the process.

We have been dished corruption of the worst proportions as dirty laundry in political speech is aired in public.

The Integrated Sustainable Rural Development Strategy and Urban Renewal South Africa in 2000 opened a path for increasing service delivery in the period under review.

In some rural areas, unemployment that was as high as 35 percent was reduced to 25 percent, a figure that is too high but the reduction suggested that something worked.

The lived experiences of citizens suggest that, from 2001 to 2016, poverty was aggressively addressed across all local governments. Msinga municipality in KwaZulu-Natal which, according to the census data of 2001 was the poorest, made major strides, improving livelihoods – from a poverty level of 60 percent in 2001 to 37 percent in 2011. This was further reduced to 24 percent in 2016.

I recall sharing the story of progress with Dr Vuyo Mahlathi (now deceased), about Msinga.

She explained how the women peace movement was involved in Msinga in the pre-and post-1994 period, building peace and social cohesion in the area.

The ANC/IFP positions were fierce and violent. She recalled how she had taken interest in the black Zulu pleated dress and the colourful hat of a fifty-something woman. To her surprise, the woman lifted her dress to reveal an AK47. These were hard political times with political killings happening on a grand scale. But with improved service delivery, Msinga saw peace return.

Yet another municipality, Intsika Yethu in the Eastern Cape, had started relatively better, at 24 percent, and witnessed reversals in poverty, to 27 percent, over the 16 years.

While the Cape Metro had started ahead of the game in 2001, by 2011 the Tshwane Metro had inched ahead. But it was during the home stretch to 2016 that the Cape Metro was a clear winner in the country.

One of the important commitments KZN followed over almost 20 years was the consistency of the mission. Operation Sukuma Sakhe, introduced by Premier Sbu Ndebele, was followed to the letter by Khabazela.

As a slogan for development, communication and mobilisation, Operation Sukuma Sakhe resonates among the citizens of KZN as far more than just a slogan.

However, the country is awash with raw sewage in the streets and in our rivers, huge unpaid electricity bills dog municipalities, roads are full of potholes, the rail system is dysfunctional, local businesses are under the control of foreigners and big shopping malls, tension is escalating in communities, poverty and inequality is back with a bang after a short-lived reprieve, youth unemployment is at an all time high, and would-be councillors have resorted to the barrel of the gun for positions.

Happy voting, South Africa. Tomorrow is another day.

Dr Pali Lehohla is the former statistician-general of South Africa and former head of Statistics South Africa. Meet him @ www.pie.org.za and @Pqlilj01

*The views expressed here are not necessarily those of IOL or of title sites


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