Opinionista Onkgopotse JJ Tabane 8 January 2014

Dear North West Premier Thandi Modise, let’s talk frankly

The recent shambles in the North West province must leave you cold. As the head honcho of the movement in that province, it must embarrass you that you have to defend the indefensible when the whole movement in the province appears to have gone mad. If it is not assassinations, as we saw in the lead up to Mangaung, it's murder plots. If it is not councillors voting out an ANC mayor, it’s a town that is so divided it now has two councils. And as if that is not enough, a few months ago you have taken a bizarre stance on the tragic situation of Marikana where you put politics ahead of the mourning of families who lost lives at the hands of your police a year earlier. That was bad.

The subject of the North West is close to my heart, having grown up in the village of Mmanotshe Moduane, otherwise known as Hebron, where to this day there is one tarred road running through the village. Thanks to twenty years of freedom I still hold out hope for the tarring of the rest of the dusty roads there. It is painful that due to a stated lack of resources the illustrious Hebron College, where my mother used to teach those many years ago, was shut down. Interestingly, the same lack of resources was not quoted in the recent arrogant R1.3 million purchase of German wheels for your sweet self.

I was wondering when an ANC politician was going to cock a snook at Pravin Gordhan’s austerity measures. But of course you are ‘not involved at all’ as per your media statement. These things get done in your name largely unbeknown to you. But I digress.

For a citizen who lives in your province, it is nonsensical to think that over the next few years resources will be spent on changing the name of the region to satisfy political machinations. Moses Kotane, after whom the province is apparently set to be named, would be turning in his grave to learn that money that could have been directed at lifting the standard of living and education in this and other small villages of this neglected province will be used to have his name in lights.

Sadly, the people who live even in the capital of the North West are often reminded of the ‘good old days of Bophuthatswana and Mangope’. That should shame us all immediately, but the shambolic state of the town speaks volumes. Surely money should be spend on filling up the unsightly and inexplicable potholes in the capital rather than on having to change sign boards and stationery? It’s insane indeed. Similarly insane, in my view, was the changing of Mafikeng to Mahikeng. You should wonder who cares. These kinds of pet projects show a certain level of disregard for the priorities that face our people. I know that while so much was spent on changing this name, it remains the worst-performing municipality in the country with scant regard for proper provision of services in that part of the world.

I am made to understand that the whole exercise of changing the name of the province will cost the taxpayer close to a billion Rands. I really hope that sensible citizens will stand up to stop this madness.

Meanwhile, the economy of the province is taking a knock while you prepare for your sheer driving pleasure in the last few weeks of your tenure. Factories that used to hire people in Babelegi and Ga-rankuwa are now rusty, having been out of operation since the days of Popo Molefe who, by the way, spoke exceedingly well last year on the occasion of the commemoration of the thirtieth anniversary of the United Democratic front.

Sadly, all the reminiscing about those days flies in the face of pat projects such as those pursued by our leadership in that province. With a few months to go before elections I am not sure who would have advised that we should be fiddling while Rome burns. People like Molefe left this trail of shambles in their wake even though at the time they did their best to manage the transition from a bantustan to a decent administration.

In a province of such horrendous joblessness, how do we throw away millions of rands into a petty project such as renaming the entire province? The province is in utter shambles when it comes to economic enablers such as road infrastructure. All we ever hear about is corruption that relates to incomplete road projects. I have to commend you for attempting to deal with such corruption in your term of office but as even you acknowledged, these interventions only came after the notorious Koster road had claimed numerous lives.

Of course I would not be surprised at all to learn that there will have to be a multimillion tender to explain and position this bizarre decision to change the name of the province.

You are somewhat lucky you have been out of mainstream circulation. I would imagine that there would have been much more outrage from civil society about the stance you took about the memorial for the people of Marikana. So outrageous was your attitude that even our movement had to disown it, correctly labelling it “callous” in a media statement. Sadly, we expect those same humiliated communities to return you to office in a few months time.

Frankly, this province seems to represent the worst amongst us. China Dodovu, your local minister of cooperative governance and traditional affairs is out on bail for murder! This must rank as stock embarrassment for you although politicians don’t embarrass easily. If he is found guilty the worst fears about that province will be confirmed. That politics have become more important than the people and that this now underpins how much our movement is tearing itself apart.

I hope with the few months you have left in office that you will do something for us to remember you by other than a meaningless name change that will add no value to the lives of my fellow villagers of Mmanotshe Moduane. Otherwise, enjoy your ride while it lasts.

Yours Frankly,

Onkgopotse JJ Tabane. DM


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