Get more Mail & Guardian
Subscribe or Login

Editorial: Promises are on tap, but not water

South Africans are intimately familiar with corruption and poor governance. They see it when they walk down our potholed streets or when they’re left fumbling for their cellphones to light the way through another bout of all too familiar load-shedding. It is worrying that these failures have become so commonplace, so ingrained in our daily reality that they are increasingly being regarded as “normal”.

This week the Mail & Guardian visited several parts of the country where governance has entirely failed. In the Free State, QwaQwa residents have been without regular access to clean drinking and potable water since 2016. When they’ve successfully drawn attention to their plight, national ministers have promised much but delivered little. In Sekhukhune in Limpopo, an NGO has taken the municipality to court to try and compel it to comply with an earlier court order: to do its job and ensure a basic human right — access to water.

In both these cases the failure of the local government to supply water stems from some corrupt activity with some garden-variety mismanagement thrown in. In Sekhukhune the municipal manager is implicated in a dodgy R67-million scandal. She’s been suspended on full pay with the municipality now edging towards a settlement.

In QwaQwa, the local government has been mired in scandal. When ANC councillor Vusumuzi Tshabalala became mayor, corruption is alleged to have become rampant.

Then, in June 2018, in the face of mounting protests, a motion of no confidence was tabled before the council to remove him. Tshabalala was set for a forced exit. But minutes before the vote, he resigned.

His future job prospects were already secured — he was redeployed as ANC chief whip in the provincial legislature.

But it doesn’t end there.

This is the same municipality — Maluti-a-Phofung — that employed more than 200 people days ahead of the ANC’s Nasrec conference, even as it was placed under administration. We reported in 2018 that a worker at the municipality, who asked not to be named for fear of being victimised, said: “The job was part of a deal that I would go to the conference and vote for NDZ [Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma]. We were paid before we even started working.”

And herein lies the rub.

Two years ago, much of the country was enthused by President Cyril Ramaphosa’s “Thuma Mina” promise. Many were ready to do what was necessary to help steer the country out of the morass that had accelerated during the Jacob Zuma presidency.

There were repeated promises that government employees who were guilty of wrongdoing would be brought to book. There was the expectation that repeated campaigns of misgovernance would not be tolerated.

A year ago the president held out even more hope by proposing the construction of new cities — a real life Wakanda. Not as many people were enthused.

And on the evidence collected thus far, these promises are much the same as those made to the people of QwaQwa. It is the promise of hope, of a better tomorrow just waiting over the next horizon. But it all comes to naught.

This is the state of South Africa today — our country and her people deserve better than this.

Promises are not enough.

Subscribe to the M&G

Thanks for enjoying the Mail & Guardian, we’re proud of our 36 year history, throughout which we have delivered to readers the most important, unbiased stories in South Africa. Good journalism costs, though, and right from our very first edition we’ve relied on reader subscriptions to protect our independence.

Digital subscribers get access to all of our award-winning journalism, including premium features, as well as exclusive events, newsletters, webinars and the cryptic crossword. Click here to find out how to join them.

Related stories


If you’re reading this, you clearly have great taste

If you haven’t already, you can subscribe to the Mail & Guardian for less than the cost of a cup of coffee a week, and get more great reads.

Already a subscriber? Sign in here


Subscribers only

Cape Flats gangsters, children die in fight over turf

Extortion rackets are part of a corrupt system that includes religious leaders, councillors, police and syndicates

Tobacco farmers want the taxman to do more to control...

The Black Tobacco Farmers’ Association the introduction of a minimum price level for cigarettes

More top stories

Cape Flats gangsters, children die in fight over turf

Extortion rackets are part of a corrupt system that includes religious leaders, councillors, police and syndicates

Father and son abandon gangs to start a project of...

After spending more than 40 years in a life of gangsterism, Ralph Haricombe’s life changed after his son asked him to change his life

Predators: Beauties or beasts?

How farmers perceive jackal and caracal — as ‘beautiful’ or ‘thieves’ — determines whether they will tolerate them on their livestock farms

Creecy taken to court over oil, gas plan

An environment group says its application is a ‘watershed’ case for stopping deep sea exploration

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…