Defend Truth


The cholera outbreak is just another symptom of collapsing systems under the ANC


Masixole Booi is a political scientist and a lecturer at Rhodes University. He is currently reading for his PhD.

At the centre of this collapsing of service delivery systems is the political weakness and cowardice of ANC political office bearers who have surrendered our municipalities to unaccountable public officials and bureaucrats.

The cholera outbreak in Hammanskraal that has claimed 23 lives is a clear indication of a collapsing service delivery system under the ANC-led government. On 1 June, Mpumalanga reported its first cholera case that took the life of a patient.

The water-borne disease is a result of a failure to maintain wastewater treatment plants and a lack of continuous water quality testing. The water crisis in Hammanskraal has been ignored by the national government for years. In 2019 water tests showed  “high levels of E.coli and nitrate”. The Democratic Alliance has been in charge in Tshwane, under which Hammanskraal falls, through a coalition since 2016 and they must also take full responsibility for the cholera outbreak in Hammanskraal and be held accountable.

In many South African municipalities, the water supply is contaminated with E.coli and coliform bacteria. This has also been proven to be the case in Makhanda recently.

The Makana Municipality issued a statement advising consumers to take precautionary measures before drinking tap water, stating that “Makana Municipality has received water testing results from the resampling that was done on 23 May 2023 which indicated that there were failures in the water quality, in that the presence of E.coli was detected… Makana Municipality is currently dealing with the matter and will continuously do regular water tests, and take appropriate actions, to ensure that microbiological water quality results meet the drinking water quality standards as prescribed on SANS 0241.”

The water crisis in Makhanda has been left unattended for more than a decade. On 8 May 2023, Rhodes University students and residents of Makhanda marched to the City Hall and submitted a memorandum demanding that the Makana Municipality intervene in the water-shedding and ensure that there is a regular water supply.

This illustrates a deep national crisis with our water supply systems in South Africa and the failure of municipalities and the national government to urgently intervene in ensuring that people have clean drinking water and daily water supply.

It is mostly poor and working-class people who don’t have the means to buy clean drinking water who are victims of this state of collapse. The national political leadership of the ruling party has deserted local government.

The cholera outbreak in Hammanskraal forces us as a country to have a conversation about the collapsing service delivery system under the ANC-led government. Just some examples: the poor road infrastructure with permanent gigantic potholes that are costly and life-threatening to drivers; avoidable floods caused by blocked drainage systems; and the South African Reserve Bank’s decision to constantly increase the repo rate.

The state is taking a laissez-faire approach to our socioeconomic crises and South Africans are left to fend for themselves.


It would be disingenuous to talk about the cholera outbreak without reflecting on the collapsing state of our public health institutions. From the shortage of nurses to the old infrastructure that is maintained in our hospitals and the collapsed public-private partnerships that force people to travel miles just for basic health services.

The electricity crisis continues to impact people’s livelihoods and take the lives of patients. On 25 May, Neyamiah James, a three-year-old girl died after her breathing machine ran out of battery power due to load-shedding in Bromhof, Johannesburg.


According to the 2023 Background Report for the 2030 Reading Panel, “since 2016 universities have increased teacher supply, but provinces have not increased hiring”. This negatively affects schools in rural townships, and as a result some subjects are not offered in these schools because of the shortage of teachers, while there is a great number of unemployed qualified teachers produced by universities almost every year. The Department of Education has bureaucratised the process of hiring teachers.

The report also finds that the number of learners who can read for meaning has declined, and reveals that the number of Grade 4 learners who are unable to read for understanding in any language has increased from 78% reported in 2016 to 82%. This report reflects a deep-seated crisis of our basic education and the failure of the ANC-led government to hold the Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga accountable for failing to fix basic education after more than a decade in office.

Crime and gun violence

Every quarter Police Minister Bheki Cele reports shocking crime statistics that show murder, rape, and gun violence crimes are increasing. However, these quarterly reports are not accompanied by a clear crime intelligence strategy to curb this normalised violence.

Safety and security in South Africa is a privilege only enjoyed by political and economic elites with bodyguards. In our communities, there is no clear visible intervention or strategy on how to disarm criminals and support under-resourced police stations which are not capable of dealing with gun violence. Mass murder, assassination, and hits are the order of the day.

Additionally, what makes this worse for people who lose family members through gun violence is that in some of these cases, no suspects are ever identified by police, meaning the perpetrators walk away freely.

The ANC-led government is neglecting this gun violence in our township communities, violence which contributes to political killings and assassinations of ordinary members of our communities. We have seen how this plays itself out in factions within the ruling party.

The neglected scourge of the growing number of guns in our township communities is going to contribute to political instability and insurgency if left unattended. What is seen now as criminal behaviour is going to be used by political opportunists to create political unrest.

This is not an extreme exaggeration, we have seen how this has unfolded in other African states, where armed youths are used in political games of power struggles.

However, South African exceptionalism deludes us into downplaying the danger of the fast-growing number of guns in our communities.

At the centre of this collapsing of service delivery systems is the political weakness and cowardice of ANC political office bearers who have surrendered our municipalities to unaccountable public officials and bureaucrats.

Political office bearers and other political structures are not performing their executive authority and oversight responsibilities efficiently. And the crisis of service delivery is not limited to government – private companies that are tasked with a responsibility to render services for the government often do sub-standard and mediocre work.

This happens because these companies know that there is no strong political leadership that is going to hold them accountable for their unethical work conduct.

As South African citizens, we must hold ourselves accountable and rethink our normalised political culture of entrusting power to a political party like the ANC that fails to render basic services like clean drinking water, sanitation, electricity, safety and security, equal and quality education, and healthcare.

Post-1994 under the ANC-led government, there are rural township areas in South Africa that have never even received any service delivery such as housing, water, electricity and roads. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Dennis Bailey says:

    We should, but why? You yourself have said the ANC is unaccountable. Why should Jo and Josephine Soap give a damn? Because you say, we must? Given the shambles the ANC is walking away from in 24, how is your demand reasonable? The vast majority of SA (poor, cold, sick and penniless) haven’t the strength to hold their ward councillors accountable, let alone themselves accountable for not holding them accountable! Me-thinks some political commentators need to wake up a smell the coffee!

  • Michael Forsyth says:

    I am aware of the company which installed this plant at a cost of R800 million. It was state of the art with alarms to advise if there were any issues with any part of the plant. It would advise if oil needed to be changed, if a hydraulic seal was failing and so on. All that needed to be done was to follow the prompts and alarms. The workers operating the plant did not like the alarms so disabled them all turning an automatic system into a manual system. Maintenance was not done as programmed and the plant is now unrepairable. Heads should roll.,

  • Steve Davidson says:

    You even managed to get a dig at the DA. Wow. But it does prove that under no circumstances should the party that is doing a fantastic job in the Cape get into bed with any other party in coalitions, or they’ll be tarred with the same corrupt and useless brush as the crooks in the other parties. Let the voters stew in their own juice for voting in the crooks.

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