Lest we forget, residents of Ficksburg in the Free State marched against lack of service delivery, and among their demands was their basic need for water. Police were unleashed by the ANC-run municipality, a shot rang out, and the image of a blood-stained Andries Tatane flashed across our media.
Tatane succumbed to close-range gunshots. It was in the year 2011. He would become a symbol of post-apartheid brutality against a people marching and demanding the bare minimum from the government which they had democratically elected. Andries Tatane’s widow, Rose, would pass on in 2017 without seeing the fruits of what her husband died for.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Andries Tatane: Ten years later, nothing has changed in Ficksburg
When interviewed by journalist Sipho Masondo about the lack of water in Ficksburg, the then mayor, ANC deployee Mbothoma Maduna, without remorse, sarcastically responded: “People say there is no water in this town. What is this?” as he giggled and reached into his office fridge for bottles of Valpré mineral water. Valpré is bottled water from Coca-Cola.
It sounds like a plot from a movie about a despot, doesn’t it? Well, it did indeed take place here in South Africa, under the rule of the so-called “people’s movement”, the African National Congress.
I am revisiting the story of Andries Tatane because of what has been happening in Hammanskraal, north of Pretoria. At the time of writing about 15 people had died of cholera from drinking contaminated water.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Killer cholera hits amid decade-long bickering over Hammanskraal water crisis – and tender scandals
In case you think this is a sudden outbreak, let me tell you now that it is not. Hammanskraal did not come about by stealth. The water situation in that township has been persisting for 10 years, if not more. So much for the promise of “a better life for all” and “a good story to tell” that the ANC government has been preaching in their electioneering slogans over the years.
Now 15 people are dead that we know of. And because it’s called a cholera outbreak — something with the potential of spreading quickly — it calls for ministerial press conferences and “action committees and investigations”.
How many more deaths were there that are unaccounted for, those who died of thirst and other diseases that could not be classified and are closely linked to this neglect? If ANC councillors can unleash police to shoot Andries Tatane in broad daylight, the people of Hammanskraal dying of thirst are just nothing in the broader scheme of things, to be blunt.
Service delivery humanitarian crisis
Hammanskraal is the straw that will break the camel’s back, the one scandal that has just helped shine the light on the neglect of the poor. Its advantage is that it falls under the control of one of the biggest metros in the country — and our capital city. Imagine what’s happening to those in our far-flung rural areas?
Masala Rabulana, a resident of Nzhelele in the northern, rural part of Venda, Limpopo, wrote on Twitter that “my village (Nzhelele) water infrastructure was also upgraded when Venda was still Republic and water shortage started on 1996 and still not resolved now, community has accepted that water is delivered by water entrepreneurs or you have borehole” (sic).
This is not far-fetched. It is something I have witnessed in the rural village of Mabheleni in Whittlesea in the Eastern Cape. In 2021, the little town experienced its worst drought ever. I saw livestock collapsing and dying, with four villages relying on one tap, about 5km away. The only reason that the tap had water was because it was on the pipeline that was passing through as it was supplying water to the prison on the other side of the mountain. I saw people waking up to go pray for rain to harness water to fill their water tanks.
The ANC municipality just did not come to the party (pun intended) — well, maybe if it were an alcohol-infused party where tenders were discussed and money exchanged hands, they would have come.
I remember how, after coming back to Johannesburg, my brother-in-law called me to tell me he was so thirsty he went to drink water at a nearby dam. By the way, the dam does not supply water to the villages. When water is needed by the nearby farmers, the dam gates are opened and water flows through the river to farms towards Queenstown.
This is the story of many rural towns. Ask every villager north of Hammanskraal towards Limpopo. Ask villagers in the Eastern Cape, Free State, Northern Cape, North West, KwaZulu-Natal. Water has become a tenderpreneur scheme at the hands of the ANC, hence they gave their benefactor a tender close to R300-million for the Rooiwal Wastewater Treatment Plant in Pretoria — someone whose experience in the field is questionable.
Now the cadres dare not claim responsibility for their graft but are quick to pass the buck (having pocketed other big bucks), and just like they killed Andries Tatane, they are prepared to have casualties along the way. Hammanskraal is nothing new, many South Africans have been dying and will continue to die of thirst and other diseases, albeit unreported.
In another bizarre incident, just last month as government departments were closing their financial year-end, the mayor of Madibeng issued an apology for his municipality returning R146-million to Treasury, money that was meant for service delivery. They just didn’t care — they had managed to pilfer whatever they could and just didn’t know what to do with the rest. People’s needs did not matter.
Let’s do an audit of the rural villages in Madibeng and see if people have water — the results will be heartbreaking. Most probably villagers share drinking streams with animals, yet money was sent back to Treasury. The ANC rules, the ANC leads.
As we head to 2024, we should look at the derelict state of our country. The crumbling infrastructure, the grid that is heading for collapse, the water issues of Hammanskraal and other areas as well as the unabated avarice. We should look at all of these and then ask ourselves: what country do we want post-2024? Do we want to die for a basic human right such as water or do we want to reap the fruits of our hard-earned democracy?
Lest we forget, they shot Andries Tatane who led a march for water. The deaths at Hammanskraal mean nothing to the ANC and its greedy cadres. DM