/ 25 November 2021

Editorial: Forget the politicians, you are the biggest loser

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You, the voter, are the biggest loser in the division of power in our municipalities. It doesn’t matter whether you were among the 28% of the eligible population who pitched up at a voting station or you stayed at home and had a braai on 1 November

A lot has been said about how political coalitions will be our future in municipal structures — and possibly on the national stage, come 2024. But little has been said about what these coalitions mean for you. 

The past two weeks have yet again shown us that the pre-election pandering from political parties about delivering sorely needed services to the people was exactly that — pandering for our votes. 

When crunch time came —  deciding who would be best placed to run the more than 160 hung municipalities —  the game quickly changed. It is no longer about what the people want, but more about what the politicians’ egos can stomach. And when it comes to each other, they can’t stomach much. 

The 2016 local government elections showed us that coalitions are not about working together to better the lives of residents in any municipality. Nelson Mandela Bay, for example, became ungovernable with at least three changes of mayor — all while delivery of the most basic of services slid to disastrous levels. Although not yet under administration, the municipality is in the red zone. You could argue that this was inevitable, but you best trust that the five years of indecision has simply aided the decline. 

The City of Tshwane has experienced years of indecision, motions of no confidence, the dissolution of the council and raging court battles. What happened to service delivery? You guessed it. None was forthcoming. In the Mail & Guardian this week we talk to residents and farmers who have had to use water with ridiculously high levels of E coli. Some areas in the municipality have undrinkable water. It is a disgrace.

Neither has the City of Johannesburg been spared. Can you count the number of mayors the city has seen, amid the fall-out between the Democratic Alliance and the Economic Freedom Fighters, which has now given us ActionSA?

The biggest city in the country is in tatters: financially — and in all other respects. Those who live there know the state of the roads, the garbage lying in streets and municipal offices that open only when they want to. 

Now 2021 has brought us more of these coalitions. If you’ve listened carefully over the past two weeks, politicians have made it clear that THEY won’t be crossed. THEY won’t go into bed with crooks. THEY run the show. THEY want their names on highways. It has been about egos and personalities who are outmanoeuvring each other and THEY can’t wait to double-cross the so called winners.

It’s not about us. It’s not about getting our cities to work again. It’s not about building roads and infrastructure to encourage investment and job creation for the betterment of all. Whether you deliberately stayed away from the polling stations — because of apathy or disillusionment — or you fixed your X to a specific mast, we are all going to bear the brunt of a political landscape that is less about governing and more about the satisfaction of personal interests and vindictive opposition. Cry the beloved country.