Mr President, as you start your second term ...

2014-05-25 15:00

Prioritise the struggle for water

Phumeza Mlungwana and Dustin Kramer

Two weeks before South Africans voted in the 2014 general elections, Jaconia Rahube recounted the story of how his brother Osia died at the hands of the police during the Madibeng municipality water crisis.

Like many poor and working class people across the country, Osia was fighting for the most basic of rights – water. The state of water, sanitation and other basic services is one of the most serious crises facing South Africa.

Firstly, all spheres of government must acknowledge the extent of the crisis. Millions lack access to basic sanitation and water, and schoolchildren die in pit toilets.

Government must urgently develop plans for the delivery of new services and maintenance of existing services. This should form part of broader cross-sectoral plans for informal settlements, rural areas and schools. Where private contractors are used, they must be monitored and held accountable.

Secondly, participation by affected communities in service delivery and governance must become central, as is required by law.

National Treasury and other relevant departments must ensure municipalities make information relating to budgets, tenders and services available to communities to foster meaningful engagement.

Thirdly, through organising, education and advocacy at the local and national levels, civil society must ensure government produces and delivers on these plans.

To this end, the water and sanitation summit recently hosted by the Social Justice Coalition endorsed the development of a People’s Plan for Water, Sanitation and Dignity.

The plan will provide a road map for sustained organising across provinces and will be developed over the next six months with organisations and communities across the country.

As we edge towards the 2016 local elections, our leaders must remember one thing – the daily struggles for which people like Osia have died are fundamentally struggles for life, equality and dignity. It will take serious organising to ensure government recognises and acts on this.

Mlungwana and Kramer work for the Social Justice Coalition

Thuthuzela Care Centres need funding

Tinyiko Dlamini

Dear Mr President, Congratulations on your second term. As you start your new term, please make an effort to allocate funding for the full operation of the Thuthuzela Care Centres (TCC) across the country.

The TCC model is a government initiative and a brilliant one at that. But a number of these centres only exist on paper due to a lack of funding.

We only have one such centre in Mpumalanga that is fully operational and it is quite far from the deep rural areas.

South Africa is the rape capital of the world, so these facilities are a necessity.

There are many ways to deal with the emotional effects of rape, but only one to treat the physical effects?–?and that is medical treatment.

Rape is an uncomfortable topic but it is a reality for many women in our country.

I lost my virginity through rape when I was 18 years old. It was not my first uncomfortable encounter with an aggressive man.

I had chosen to pretend the first incident didn’t happen because the people around me who knew about it continued to treat the man in the same way they did after he explained to them so very nicely that he thought I wanted it even though I was crying and saying: “Please stop, you are hurting me. Why are you doing this to me?”

When a similar incident, but of a more brutal nature, occurred many months later, I felt defeated by life and full of rage.

At the time, it didn’t make any sense to me to open a criminal case.

I decided to deal with it in my own way. I was prepared to be sent to prison as I was already imprisoned by anger, bitterness and pain, and didn’t enjoy being alive at all.

Rape ruins people’s lives.

At the very least, please provide the medical treatment to minimise the damage.

More young voices needed in Parliament

Chuck Stephens

The DA’s youth chairperson, Yusuf Cassim (24), became South Africa’s youngest MP when he was sworn into Parliament on Wednesday.

The DA has also appointed South Africa’s youngest member of the provincial legislature, Katlego Phala (22), in Limpopo. These appointments help close the generation gap between the old guard and new parliamentarians.

Mamphela Ramphele (67) opted not to take a seat in Parliament, and instead offered it to the head of Agang SA’s youth league?–?until the decision was overturned by the party.

Julius Malema (33) leads the third-largest party in Parliament.

At last, South Africa’s age representation is catching up with its progressive record on gender. On that front, 24% of Africa’s parliamentarians are women compared with only 21% in North America and 12% in Asia. In South Africa, 29% of the last Parliament was composed of women.

Everyone is supposed to be represented in a democracy. But the youth does not generally have a strong voice even though the median age in sub-Saharan Africa is 18.6 years. Of course, minors under the age of 18 don’t vote, even though 45% of Africa’s population is under the age of 15.

They are supposedly represented by their elders.

The average age of parliamentarians should drop considerably, lining up better with demographic realities. But are age quotas not needed too? According to the UN, only 6% of parliamentarians worldwide are under 35.

In Africa, only 11% are under 35. So again, Africa is relatively progressive, but still way short of equity.

It is a well-known fact that the rate of unemployment among the youth is much higher than the overall unemployment rate.

In South Africa, 75% of the jobless are under 35. So the fact that there are now younger voices in Parliament is cause for optimism.

More younger people in Parliament will help it think outside the box. Power to the youth!

Stephens is CEO of the Desmond Tutu Centre for Leadership in White River, Mpumalanga

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