In recent weeks, there has been a renewed emphasis from certain sectors of the ANC, government and its sympathisers to stress the achievements made since the fall of Apartheid. And though these achievements are not insignificant, scoring political points through this campaign masks the culpability of government in the huge gaps that still do exist. By KHADIJA PATEL.
Speaking to the SA Local Government Association last month, President Jacob Zuma said, “No country could have produced the delivery we produced in the last 18 years.” It has been common practice by the ANC to remind its critics of its successes, but in recent weeks there has been a renewed stress on the positives from team ANC. And although these are considerable achievements, given the timing, one can’t but wonder if the sales pitch is more about scoring political points.
Last week at the Annual Convention of the South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry at Gallagher Convention Centre in Midrand, Johannesburg, Zuma further stressed the achievements of the ANC, highlighting political achievements in the institutional strength of the country. He went on to enumerate gains made against socio-economic inequality.
“About three million houses have been built for the poor,” he said. “Six million households have gained access to clean water since 1994. Electricity has been connected to nearly five million homes.
“The country's extensive social grants system now reaches more than 15 million people, 10 million of whom are largely vulnerable children. This programme has played an important role in reducing poverty.
“To improve access to education, more than eight million children at primary and secondary schools benefit from school-feeding schemes,” he added. “A similar number do not pay school fees.
“Financial support has been extended to students in higher education and further education and training colleges.
“Statistics show a decrease in most crimes, including armed robberies, housebreakings and contact crimes.
“In addition to meeting basic needs like water, electricity and housing, our infrastructure development programme is building and revitalising many clinics, hospitals and schools. On Tuesday we celebrated the replacement of 49 mud schools with modern schools in the Eastern Cape.
“More importantly, income levels have also been rising in the country since 1994. Over the period 1993 to 2008, average real incomes for Africans increased by 51% compared to a 35% rise for whites.”
And while Zuma’s glowing account of the progress made by the ANC government is met with cynicism in some quarters, the South African Institute of Race Relations believes Zuma is “quite correct to identify the success of the government’s service delivery efforts.”
Frans Cronje, deputy CEO of the Institute of Race Relations, said in a statement that research undertaken by the Institute showed that Zuma’s claims were not unfounded. “A myth has taken hold in South Africa that service delivery was a failure,” he said.
According to Cronje, “the ANC may be accused of lot of things,” but research shows “that the ANC and the government it leads deserves considerably more credit for improving the living standards of poor and black South Africans than it has received.”
Cue, then, for the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal to announce a campaign to highlight the achievements of government.
“We are doing this because we have noted with severe concern that there are people who misleadingly inform the public that our government is failing,” ANC provincial executive member Senzo Mkhize said in a statement.
“When the ANC government took over in 1994, it inherited massive service delivery backlogs caused by the Apartheid regime's years of deliberate neglect of certain sections of the society.
“In the past 18 years, we have transformed the State through creating new institutions and, more importantly, building a democratic society. We also dismantled the Apartheid regime's legal framework, and that has enabled us to change the socio-economic conditions of millions of people,” Mkhize said.
Former chairperson of the Reserve Bank and a former NEC member of the ANC, Tito Mboweni, wrote in the Sunday Independent last weekend that a more upbeat assessment of the ANC’s achievements was in order.
“There are many reasons to remain proud of the ANC, the governing party, and what it has achieved together with the people of SA: a great Constitution, a bill of rights, many laws which seek to undo the suffering and hurt occasioned by the Apartheid system, an independent judiciary that works, a strong macro-economic framework, an intact defence force which understands that it is subordinate to the political leadership, massive improvements in the living standards of black people in general and African people in particular, a recognisable place among the international community of nations, a member of Brics, etc.,” Mboweni said.
Politicking quite aside, Zuma, the ANC in KZN and Mboweni all acknowledge the deficits in service delivery. There is a sombre reflection on inequality and its continuance, and it acknowledges the shortfalls of government “achievements” in the last 18 years. While invocations of the legacy of Apartheid are not amiss, the role of government in the last 18 years can also not be ignored. The ANC-led government’s policies in the last 18 years also share some blame for the gaps that have assured South Africa a place among the most unequal societies in the world.
Last month a report entitled “The Quality of Sanitation in South Africa”, which was discussed in parliament, showed that government needs to invest R44.5bn to solve the sanitation crisis in the country. The report also found that apart from the 11% of households with no services, a further 26% where infrastructure does exist are on the brink of collapse. Academics point out that statistics like these prove the shortfalls of government far beyond the rhetoric of achievement.
They point out that though houses were built, they were built too far away from economic opportunities, and that too many of them have not held up to the elements. Although access to running water has been improved, many of the taps installed by government in rural areas are long out of service. Although access to electricity has been enhanced, the sheer cost of electricity has forced many back to candles and paraffin-powered stoves.
Furthermore, recent events in the mining sector have demonstrated the extent of inequality that riddles South African society. The state of the platinum belt has also proven the threat inequality poses to the niceties of democracy and the rule of law. Despite the government’s achievements, it is the shortfalls in their promises, the capacity for development and the capacity for distribution that are increasingly being perceived as unable to satisfy the material needs of the people. DM
- R45bn needed to fix sanitation crisis on News24
- Marlboro evictions: The shortfalls of the housing policy in Daily Maverick
Photo: South Africa's President Jacob Zuma reacts after addressing an African National Congress (ANC) policy meeting in Midrand, north of Johannesburg, June 29, 2012. (REUTERS)