The rapid rise in informal settlements and the dire lack of basic services is an indictment on the political leadership of this country, writes Davids. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency (ANA)
The rapid rise in informal settlements and the dire lack of basic services is an indictment on the political leadership of this country, writes Davids. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency (ANA)

#AnotherVoice: Where is the social justice in our politics?

By Lorenzo A Davids Time of article published Jun 8, 2021

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With four months to go before the local government elections, South African voters are increasingly encountering a local government crisis of epic proportions.

In the run-up to the 2019 national elections, journalist Lubabalo Ngcukana wrote about the now all too familiar and painful story of the lack of school toilets in our then 25-year-old democracy.

Dingilizwe Senior Primary School in the Eastern Cape was established in 1985 and the school governing body chairperson, Nosivile Tafeni, said countless letters had been written to the government and had all gone unanswered.

Ngcukana writes that school principal Ntuthuzelo Jameson had to move his own home pit latrine to the school to accommodate the toilet needs of his staff while the 108 schoolchildren had to relieve themselves in the fields around the school.

Grade 2 learner Olana Chako said it was embarrassing to relieve herself in full view of boys and others who may pass by. Think for a moment: that’s 108 children having to relieve themselves each day around the extended school property.

But here’s the further nauseating piece in the article: principal Jameson said that the school was identified as a voting station. Temporary toilets were hired to provide for voters at the school location. And once elections were over, the toilets were removed. Think about that awful truth for a moment.

Seven-year-old Olana Chako most probably watched the government as they removed the toilets from her school after the elections that she as a girl so desperately needed.

The experience of ordinary people in civil society is that social justice in South Africa shows all the signs of an undermined and compromised set of values which serve the interest of the powerful at lightning speed and make the poor wait in line for decades for issues linked to basic human rights such as land, safe transport and sanitation.

Thousands of new councillors in about 257 municipalities will be sworn into office in October 2021. These councillors will be received into offices and equipped with the necessary tools to fulfil their duties. In large metros, they will have oversight over budgets that run into multiple billions of rand.

They will be provided with laptops, transport, business cards, office furniture and food.

There is a quick willingness to equip politicians with the needed resources and then there is the unwillingness, populated by arrogant and corrupt officials, to meet the service delivery requests from ordinary citizens for land, housing, transport and toilets.

It's what principal Jameson implied in the article: they will supply toilets to get our votes but they won't supply toilets to support our dignity.

Our very advanced laws which are oriented towards social justice should make the resolution of most crises a fairly straightforward process, but ministers, councillors and officials have turned access to social justice into an arduous process and one which demands the patience of Job and the wealth of Solomon from those who have neither.

Learner Olana Chako and her class will most probably watch the 2021 elections again.

The collapse of municipal infrastructure such as sanitation, refuse removal, roads and water supply services, is a massive threat to our stability as a democracy.

The rapid rise in informal settlements and the dire lack of basic services is an indictment on the political leadership of this country. We should have a political leadership that puts the needs of the citizens before their own resource needs. This is sadly not the case. Councillors will get branded bags and pens while communities will sit without water, refuse removal services and sanitation.

That’s the horror of our political landscape. That’s how far we have fallen.

Our democracy must be built on competence, not cadres. Our citizens deserve a political leadership that excels in service delivery and who do not succumb to political subservience to stay in office.

Where is the social justice in our politics?

* Lorenzo A Davids.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

Cape Argus

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