The ripple effect of typhoid

Come election time, the Delmas municipality may regret neglecting its only cricket ground and allowing it to be taken over by soccer clubs. It could also rue threats to evict a volunteer organisation helping disabled children from a government-built facility. But it will definitely suffer from its own ‘Watergate”—the handling of the typhoid outbreak that hit the town between August and September.
It is the key reason many locals conclude that the forthcoming local government elections are a farce.

Some said that only a visit by President Thabo Mbeki, as ANC leader, to announce the firing of the mayor and of the municipal manager will convince them to go to the polls.

But small grievances—particularly if they suggest their representatives don’t care about them—can also sway voters. ‘There are many soccer grounds here; I don’t know why the council allowed soccer clubs to use our cricket field, the only one we have,” said Daniel Masuku. His friend, Skhumbuzo Komane, added: ‘This shows they are not interested in the dreams of youngsters in their community.”

Who are ‘they”? ‘It is the people who live with us who must be interested in us. We can’t expect the provincial or national government to care if the local one doesn’t.”

For Maria Mononyana, the fact that the 42 disabled children under her care at the Siyonqoba Disabled Care Centre are now living under the threat of eviction is enough to convince her that the local elections are no cause for excitement.

She said it was agreed the council would maintain the building, donated by the Department of Public Works. It has never done this.

‘When we buy R50 of electricity, they take R25 for rates and services.We are left with very little electricity and can’t even afford to switch on the fridge,” said Mononyana.

A group of youths told the Mail & Guardian they had played a role in mobilising the Botleng community to march in protest against the council’s handling of the typhoid outbreak.

‘We want to concentrate on water and typhoid so we don’t lose focus, but there are lots of things relating to service delivery we can talk about,” said Andile Nkomane. ‘For example, we have a lot of tarred roads here but people still use the bucket system. It shows the councillors don’t prioritise properly. We can do without tarred roads; it is these buckets that are causing all this disease.”

Nkomane believes the community’s rude sendoff of Mpumalanga Premier Thabang Makwetla last week highlights general unhappiness with the government’s performance at all levels. There would be no more protests, he said—but there would also be no door-to-door campaigns by ANC activists urging households to vote. The youths insisted they would boycott the poll.

‘The councillors tell us not to believe what we read in the media, yet they are running the town through the media. Since the outbreak, not one councillor has held a ward meeting to talk about issues affecting the community.”

Delmas municipal manager Tefo Kadi told the M&G ‘you can write what you like” when approached for comment.

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