Dumi's Digest: Shelve delivery. It’s election time

2014-04-02 10:00

In an election year, things can be more hectic than normal for our politicians. This is because the politicians channel all their energy into campaigning for their respective parties to win the elections.

The 2014 elections are no different from the previous ones we have held in the country since the dawn of democracy 20 years ago.

Besides the electioneering by politicians, this is an interesting year for South Africa. We have some children born after 1994 – the year we attained democracy – voting for the first time.

Political commentators say these voters have the potential to change the political landscape of the country due to their lack of connection with the struggle. We shall wait and see the results of the May 7 polls are.

But it has not been campaigns that have kept our politicians busy this year. The recently released report on Nkandla by Public Protector Thuli Madonsela and the continuing violent service-delivery protests have been talking points for South Africans, including the politicians.

Regarding the Nkandla report, opposition parties are trying to capitalise on its findings and recommendations to win the hearts of the voters.

This while the ruling ANC has been working hard to find answers to the many questions that South Africans have over the spending of R240 million into President Jacob Zuma’s private residence.

In their busyness, our politicians seem to have forgotten that services by all spheres of government – municipalities, provinces and national – must continue unhindered.

I raise this because over the past two months I have observed that when things are left unattended for too long, they have a way of becoming the norm or being a nuisance. In this case, I will go with things becoming a nuisance.

What started as a little hole on a road that I use daily in the past two months has now become not only an irritation but a danger to society at large.

The small gap has now grown into a monstrous pothole that forces motorists to drive in the oncoming lane to avoid damaging their tyres and vehicles. This poses a danger to oncoming traffic and can be deadly for those driving in the dark.

I have no idea why this pothole has not been fixed. In other years – not election years – my experience in the area where I stay has been that potholes, however small or big, will be filled as soon as they show up.

This kind of commitment from politicians – both councillors and municipal officials who are often deployed by their parties – has always been a welcome relief.

In the past week, I visited my home province of Mpumalanga. My visit saw me drive to Nkomazi – far eastern Mpumalanga – to check on relatives I last saw many years ago.

While I do not expect top-notch services in rural areas – where municipalities struggle to get poor communities to pay for services – the state of the roads was very telling.

To me, it was the story of the communities in rural areas accepting what their municipalities have given them without question. While not conclusive, the attitude of councillors is that people must be thankful that they get some services from the municipalities and should not expect more.

While I recognise the damage caused by the recent rains, the roads in Nkomazi arewere in such a bad state that smaller cars find it hard to navigate through the gaping potholes.

Communities have stopped trying to fill the potholes with sand and stones to make the roads usable. They have accepted that the state of their roads is and will be like that for a while.

Also back home, water shortages have been so frequent that it has become normal to go through a weekend without a drop coming out of the taps. Load shedding of electricity is also so common that it is expected to happen at any time.

With electioneering at its peak, potholes and other service provisions are taking a back seat as campaigning is prioritised.

Government has been reminding us of what it has achieved in the past 20 years of democratic South Africa. These numbers are commendable and welcome. But people are getting tired of being reminded of what they already have but which the government fails to maintain.

An increase in access to water and electricity, and the tarring of roads, are not enough if the taps run dry most of the time, blackouts are the order of the day and potholes are left unattended, posing a danger to residents.

So, while politicians are on the campaign trail for their parties, please spare a thought for the potholes on our doorsteps and fix them. Also ensure that the taps have water for residents and rural roads are constantly maintained.

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