In the Free State, people perish to access water
- Tshepo Motsepe
- 15 May 2017 (South Africa)
Rose Tatane, wife of slain activist Andries Tatane, died in a car accident earlier this month. Reports of her death reveal the shocking lack of service delivery in this country to which we have resigned ourselves. According to an article in the Sowetan, Rose Tatane had been forced to collect water from Lesotho for the survival of her family, because the taps in her community would run dry – not because of the drought but because of lack of caring on the part of the municipality and provincial government.
It bears reminding ourselves of the horrific nature in which the late Andries Tatane was killed, while leading and participating in a service delivery protest in Ficksburg to demand water. In full view of millions of South Africans, he was shot with rubber bullets, and beaten. On 13 April 2013 Andries Tatane succumbed to the brutality of the South African Police Service, and the failure of government to provide an essential service.
That three-and-a-half years later Rose dies in a car crash while crossing the border for water should make South Africans wonder, what is going on in the Free State? Is there such a thing as service delivery in that province? Why must the people of Ficksburg pay with their lives for the realisation of a human right afforded to all South Africans?
The answers to these questions lie in the provincial and local administration of the Free State. An act of protest in demand of service delivery is viewed as an act of treason, as some desire to topple the government. Little attention was paid by the powers-that-be to the demand of the people of Ficksburg for access to water. Ace Magashule at the time spoke of the right to protest as some special privilege afforded by his government to the people of the Free State. Magashule would have us believe that the right to protest is a gift bestowed on the people of this country, as if it weren’t an act won in struggle by an oppressed black majority.
Will the government of Ace Magashule care to explain why the people of the Free State must cross the South African border to fetch water? Why are communities in the Free State forced to buy water when family and friends visit? The Auditor General's findings of 2016 on the Free State paint a picture of a province in distress and in “regression” mode. This regression has a direct impact on service delivery and the lives of the poor who continue to live in squalour.
Why has the Free State been allowed to slip into regression? Rural provinces in South Africa remain underdeveloped, and continue to be sites of poverty for black people. The Free State has been subjected to what is known as a process of development of under-development, as noted by the Human Sciences Research Council. The apartheid agenda of underdevelopment has been made worse by a corrupt provincial government, impacting on the poor in a manner that leads to their death.
The Free State has vast tracts of land that should be made available for poor black people to harvest and contribute to the food sovereignty of the country, rather than be subjected to the double piercing of oppression: on the one hand from the democratically elected government and on the other from farm owners (a discussion for another day).
It is important to note that the premier of the Free State is part of a destructive clique called the “Premier League” in the ANC. This clique has intentions of leading the country. South Africans should be fearful of their intentions, and reject them come the 2019 national and provincial elections. They are hell-bent on destroying government – an institution available to the black majority to help advance the project of equality, redistribution and transformation in this country – for their own ends.
Like Zuma, Magashule is not a transformative Premier; he does not spend every day fighting for the disenfranchised black majority. He spends each day contemplating how to get rich at all costs at the expense of service delivery to the people of the Free State. It is workers in the Free State who must rescue their communities in the Free State from a government that is interested only in benefiting a few politically connected individuals. Workers belonging to Cosatu, who booed President Jacob Zuma at a rally in Bloemfontein on May Day, must organise in their communities and demand service delivery at every sphere of government including local government – their lives depend on it. DM
Tshepo Motsepe is the General Secretary of Equal Education, a social movement striving for equality in the South African education system.
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