News24

Mthatha 'has collapsed'

2011-05-11 07:43

Mthatha - Infrastructure and services in the Eastern Cape town of Mthatha have "completely collapsed" as corruption and allegations of "political hitlists" batter the ANC-run King Sabatha Dalindyebo Municipality ahead of the local government elections.

Piles of uncollected rubbish and rubble line the edge of the town's potholed and "lawless" streets, where minibus taxis, cars and trucks flagrantly shoot red traffic lights and stop streets and overtake on solid lines at will, says Graeme Alexander, the chairperson of the Mthatha Ratepayers' Association.

The town and its surrounds are regularly hit by power blackouts and water shortages.

Last year piles of bloodied sheets stacked up at the All Saints Hospital between Mthatha and Ngcobo when desperate residents from a nearby village diverted the hospital's water to their homes.

The Mthatha River, which flows through the town and where locals once used to swim, is heavily polluted, with several tons of raw sewage spilling in every month from the town's overflowing sewers.

'Completely collapsed'


"Mthatha has completely collapsed," says Alexander.

"In the past 20 years, what has changed? Just about everything. There's a lack of water and electricity, the streets are dirty, the roads are lawless and in an appalling state.

"Us locals have become so used to the lawless driving that we've become defensive drivers. If you reach a traffic lights and it's green for you, you make sure you look both ways before you go through because inevitably a car or a taxi will be coming and you know they aren't going to stop."

Alexander says many ratepayers have given up on the municipality and are paying for repairs to municipal infrastructure, such as burst pipes, with their own money.

Most of the town's businesses, he says, have bought their own generators due to the frequent blackouts. The ratepayers' association, which includes black, white, coloured and Indian members, holds regular meetings with the municipality, but "nothing ever changes".

"We feel that they are paying us lip service," Alexander says.

"Nothing ever gets done."

Companies have left

Alexander, who has lived in Mthatha since 1987, says the town started to collapse in 1994 after the dissolution of the homelands and the end of tax perks for companies.

"There used to be 250 factories between Butterworth and Mthatha.

"Just outside Mthatha we used to have the largest chopsticks factory in the world, but after the tax breaks were ended the companies, the factories slowly started to close down and now, apart from a few timber mills, there are hardly any manufacturing businesses around."

Mthatha, Alexander says, was hit hard by the closure of those businesses.

"A huge number of jobs were lost and that put pressure on the town. There was a spike in crime and the situation deteriorated rapidly."

Another cause of Mthatha's depression was the moving of the administrative capital to Bisho in the former Ciskei homeland.

"That caused a large drop in business," Alexander says. "Mthatha has never fully recovered."

Political infighting, corruption

In addition, since 2004, the King Sabatha Dalindyebo Municipality and the OR Tambo municipality under which it falls, have been hammered by political infighting and numerous corruption scandals.

Former OR Tambo mayor Zaleka Cupa - an ANC NEC member who now serves as an Eastern Cape MEC - was in hot water for reportedly spending R45m of non-budgeted council money to buy seven farms for an employment project in a neighbouring province.

She was also accused of wasteful spending after using R3m of the municipality's money to send a delegation to Zambia's Independence Day celebrations.

King Sabatha Dalindyebo Municipality current's mayor Siyakholwa Mlamli was recently implicated in an alleged political assassination plot, linked to ANC candidate lists for the May 18 local government elections.

Mlami's bodyguard Thembile Ceba and his driver Thembinkosi Mapeyi have appeared in Mthatha's Magistrate's Court on five charges of conspiracy to commit murder.

Police arrested the two for allegedly soliciting a hit man and paying him a deposit of R10 000, allegedly withdrawn from Mlami's account, to kill five prominent provincial ANC leaders.

In March hundreds of demonstrators marched through Mthatha to protest against "organisational processes" in the ANC amid dissatisfaction over the party's candidate lists.

'In good nick' until 1994

United Democratic Movement (UDM) leader Bantu Holomisa, who led the Transkei until its dissolution in 1994, says when he handed over power "Mthatha was in good nick".

"It was in good nick when I handed over, but then immediately after all the towns in the Transkei, for whatever reason... I don't know, were completely neglected," he says.

Holomisa wrote a letter to former president Thabo Mbeki three years ago to ask for intervention after pipes began bursting around the town. He later wrote to President Jacob Zuma with another appeal for help.

"They promised to help, but nothing was done."

He says when the UDM won control of Mthatha in 2000 it tried to repair the broken infrastructure, but had little luck.

"We tried to fix it. We started tarring the roads, getting the water problem solved and improving the electricity, but the provincial government which is run by the ANC would delay our budget.

"They made it very difficult for us to get things done."

Holomisa is confident the UDM can win back control of Mthatha in this year's elections, despite it obtaining less than 25% of the vote in the town in the 2009 national elections.

"Mthatha is a huge mess now," he says. "The infrastructure has completely collapsed. We will have to work hard to try and fix it again, but I am confident we can win it back again and start with the repairs."

Progress being made - mayor

Mlami admits Mthatha has problems, but claims progress is being made.

He says he has done much to ease the "political" and administrative tension in the municipality.

"When I took control I had 100 fires to put out. The municipality had to prioritise and deal with the basics first."

Mlami says a top priority was easing traffic congestion from the N2 highway, which runs through the city centre.

"We are in the process of building a R87m bridge, which will ease the traffic flow in the city centre and create employment. We also have to look at the electricity system, which was last upgraded in 1964.

"With that we have the problem of a massive influx of people from the rural areas. That has put pressure on the sewers, which is the responsibility of the OR Tambo municipality."

He admits there are not enough traffic officers, saying they are expensive to train and often poached by the provincial government.

Reached rock bottom

Alexander says Mthatha's collapse is all the more tragic due to its link with former president Nelson Mandela, who was born in the OR Tambo region.

"Often, foreign journalists come through and they ask me what will happen when Mandela goes. They are always shocked about what they find in Mthatha. They ask if Mthatha is representative of what is the future of South Africa.

"I don't think so," he says after a pause.

"I think we've reached rock bottom already. We can only get better."

Comments
  • AJ - 2011-05-11 08:17

    Sometimes you get one sentence that perfectly sums up ANC governance all in one go, and this was one such sentence for me "Last year piles of bloodied sheets stacked up at the All Saints Hospital between Mthatha and Ngcobo when desperate residents from a nearby village diverted the hospital's water to their homes". You have service failure, rubbish, sabotage, desperation, neglect, collapse, poverty, lack of pride and lawlessness all in 1 sentence.

      POLLENYS - 2011-05-11 09:31

      Won't I love the commentary from all those ANC apologists? Oh, and please don't give apartheid the fault - that one has worn thin. Is this the way you want towns and cities to be?

      IandI - 2011-05-11 12:23

      Once again the ANC fails to deliver! What;s new?

      Beedyeye - 2011-05-11 13:13

      I agree. The same people who did this will still vote for the ANC, so i find it hard to feel anything for them. They vote for them because white people will steal there jobs. How many jobs, in real terms has the ANC created since 1994? BBEE only enriches the already rich and affirmative action is apartheid in reverse. Cadre deployment just reinforces the fact that the ANC is not serious about delivering quality service otherwise they would actually employ competent personnel.

  • Fanie - 2011-05-11 08:22

    AAAAAANNNNNNNNNDDDDDD they wil vote ANC again

      michelle - 2011-05-11 08:42

      of course they will vote anc, people with senoir position there have their own agenda. people in municpalities fight over positions there and they can kill u for those positions.

  • michelle - 2011-05-11 08:25

    not to mention that mthatha electricity cost more than joburg electricity, can anyone explain this to me.

      tryanything - 2011-05-11 13:40

      I think that Umthata gets its electricity directly from Eskom. Jhb city power carries some of cost somehow to make it cheaper. Not sure somebody help us here...

      Joe_Public - 2011-05-12 08:29

      Short circuits from amateur "electricians" that are stealing electricity

  • Luckybugger - 2011-05-11 08:33

    TICK-TOCK TICK-TOCK BOOOOOM!!!!! Where did it all go

  • michelle - 2011-05-11 08:46

    im from mthatha, my granny stays in the same street with people who have senior post at the muncipality, but the potholes are so unbearable in that street there is no avoiding them, one just has to drive in them. street lights are always off.

      Other Justin - 2011-05-11 15:18

      I live in east of JHB, it really sounds terrible where your family lives. They need to vote differently in order to get a different result. Voting cANCer is not EVER going to solve any of these problems. Good luck, I hope things get better there for you and your family, no-one deserves to live with that nonsense.

      Michael Lockett - 2011-05-11 17:03

      I can see why all these officials are buying themselves luxury SUVs. They are the only vehicles that can handle our roads.

  • kaz - 2011-05-11 08:59

    It is so sad what is happening to these rural municipalities. We are so spoilt in the city (especially Cape Town) I really feel for these people, everyone deserves to have basic sanitation, water and electricity. At least these stories are being reported, I suppose.

      8TcH - 2011-05-11 12:36

      I'll start having simpathy when they stop voting for the people who got it into that state!

      Buzzbar - 2011-05-11 13:20

      No Kaz, we are not spoilt. We (mostly) get the services we are paying for in the WC. Being spoiled will be half the tax and double the delivery!

  • saburger - 2011-05-11 09:11

    Back to the bush! And I also see the same signs in our major cities! It is like getting new cars and never maintain it. You have to walk again! Corrupt thieves

  • Matt - 2011-05-11 09:15

    On the positive side, at least the city's name is now correctly spelled after the evil British, who taught the locals how to write in the first place, apparently spelled it incorrectly. The correction costing millions of Rands. Actually, maybe the ANC can blame the colonists for Mthatha's demise, if they spelled it correctly in the first place the ANC could've spent the name-change-money on BMWs instead...

  • Stephen - 2011-05-11 09:16

    CORRUPTION....CORRUPTION....CORRUPTION....!!!! The problem is people are not educated in the voting process.....many are still under the impression than their vote is not secret....NOBODY KNOWS WHO YOU ARE VOTING FOR.....SO....YOU CAN VOTE FOR ANOTHER PARTY AND NOBODY WILL KNOW....DONT VOTE ANC.....!!!! CHANGE YOUR VOTE.... NO MATTER WHO YOU VOTE FOR.....APARTHEID CAN AND NEVER WILL RETURN TO THIS COUNTRY AGAIN...!!! THERE ARE BETTER PARTIES OUT THERE,BETTER THAN THE ANC....THEY WILL BUILD YOUR CITY FOR YOU AGAIN......AND NOT BREAK DOWN IT ECONOMY LIKE THEY DID WITH MTHATA....!!! MAKE THE CHANGE....VOTE FOR ANOTHER PARTY....ONLY YOU CAN MAKE THE DIFFERENCE.....GOOD LUCK AND GODBLESS.....!!!

  • W H Kotze - 2011-05-11 09:44

    "I think we've reached rock bottom already. We can only get better." Yeah, right, and pigs will fly. Come to think of it, the current regime has demonstrated that pigs do fly: provided its business class.

      Other Justin - 2011-05-11 15:21

      Ya, I agree, with the cANCer, rock bottom is not the bottom, with them there is still very far to go on the downward spiral.

  • neo_acheron - 2011-05-11 09:45

    "Where minibus taxis, cars and trucks flagrantly shoot red traffic lights and stop streets and overtake on solid lines at will". Really now, have you been driving in Joburg lately? Or maybe even in the whole West Rand? This is nothing new, and its not only there that this happens. Wake up, and smell the ashes.

      Matt - 2011-05-11 15:29

      With respect, not all taxis are like that. I was in a bad situation and had to take taxis to work for 18 months. There are definitely some really bad taxi drivers (driving on hard shoulders, but hey so do some BMW drivers), and some very unsafe taxis (once got pulled over by a cop, she forced us all out and arranged another one because it was unroadworthy - she asked me if I had a knife, I said no, she said "get one", haha). But I found that most drivers were decent, didn't break the limits, and actually the new taxis are quite nice. Still, my worst time was a taxi driver who drive through a Hillbrow alleyway to avoid traffic - we didn't know whether to laugh or be scared at the time :-)

  • FaxM8 Fax - 2011-05-11 09:46

    Viva Ape and C

  • dready - 2011-05-11 10:13

    ANC has failed the Mother city of our former president & they will continue failing the people of Mthatha if they continue voting for the ANC bcoz they just think with their stamach's. Rather alternate for UDM/DA if the people want service delivery. these people have continually failed Mthatha

  • NiceGuy - 2011-05-11 10:20

    All that can be said VIVA ANC.

  • BrianG1108@24.com - 2011-05-11 10:43

    I was born in "Umtata", grew up there, went to school right up to Matric and even taught at my old school for 3 years after university. What a shame to see a beautiful country town spiral into ruins. The rot started with the Matanzima's in the 70's when the homeland system was put into place and has just got progressively worse. I was last there in December 1979 and my family -who now no longer live there but often go up that way - say that I should remember it the way it was and not even think of going back to visit. The tragedy is that these ANC municipalities will continue destroying every town and city that they run, but will be voted back into power every election. Zimbabwe, and darkest Africa, here we come!

  • Kaliel - 2011-05-11 10:52

    Mthatha has no reason to exist and the rot will continue. It is in the middle of nowhere, has no harbour or good rail/road infrastructure or manufacturing industry. It does not support a functional commercial farming community, there are no mining operations nearby, tourism potential is totally wasted - it is a dead cert goner. People should just pack up and leave. It is pointless trying to resuscitate this place out of sentimentality towards Nelson Mandela. The place is a no-hope dive and with no income being generated, how will the municipality ever raise enough money to maintain the place without resorting to leaching off the province.

      Henry - 2011-05-11 14:20

      In the old days, there was lots of agriculture around Mthatha. Honestly though, South Africa needs about 10 new cities to divert population movement from the major Hubs (and the resultant urban chaos). Building these cities is long overdue. East London, Umtata should be on the list of city upgrades for major expansion. But as the commentators suggest, there is F'all chance of that happening with today's government.

      Kobus - 2011-05-12 17:45

      by getting the uneducated community to vote differently and to get themselves involved into cleaning up the place. No amount of Moaning and blaming this or that party will change the streets or remove the rubbish. Its a DIY dorp now . I highly doubt the people care , they will just carry on with burning tires ...otherwise someone would have thought about this already and done something about it...

  • Snymenski - 2011-05-11 10:54

    agee with the writer who says that Mthatha has collapsed. I lived and worked in Mthatha for 12 years before leaving in 2000. I am shocked at the deterioration and degadation I see in Mthatha when I return once a year to see my friends I left behind.

  • Richard - 2011-05-11 11:18

    Slowly but surely, one by one the chickens are coming home to roost. Watch this space!

  • JustinX - 2011-05-11 11:23

    I drove past there earlier this year and all what I can say is that I never want to go past there again. Looked more like a warzone and the people are suicidal on the roads. If only there was a road to bypass this horrid place!

  • AmandaWhereTo - 2011-05-11 11:54

    We are showing the signs of descending into the same state that has befallen most African " " "democracies" " " post "liberation". Let's hope we can educate people quick enough so they can use their democratic power properly. I.e. don't vote for corrupt, lying, thieving, racist parties.

  • 8TcH - 2011-05-11 12:34

    and still they vote ANC...

      POLLENYS - 2011-05-11 12:51

      Maybe they like it that way? I also lived there early sixties. Won't go near it now, and that goes for the whole of Transkei. Ruin is not the word.

      Matt - 2011-05-11 15:30

      @ Pollenys - I've never been to EC. I was told to avoid it as it's like the Wild West?

      Matt - 2011-05-11 15:31

      Oops - I meant the Transkei being like the Wild West

  • Beedyeye - 2011-05-11 13:00

    Bet the people responsible for this mess don't live in shacks, have running water and functioning toilets. The ANC should be proud!

  • GJDH - 2011-05-11 13:00

    well.... change your vote....

      POLLENYS - 2011-05-11 13:05

      Notice how the ANC suppotas are giving this one a miss. :-)))

      AmandaWhereTo - 2011-05-11 14:15

      Well it's racist reporting you see. This is apparently a DA site because it only has bad stuff to say about the ANC, and good stuff to say about the DA. What these cretins don't reliase is that maybe it's because there ARE only bad things to say about the ANC, and there are some good things to say about the DA. But this thought pattern is a bit too higher grade methinks.

  • demonsofhate - 2011-05-11 15:00

    "In the past 20 years, what has changed? Just about everything. There's a lack of water and electricity, the streets are dirty, the roads are lawless and in an appalling state." "We feel that they are paying us lip service." "Nothing ever gets done." That's black ANC service delivery for you. These people are admitting that during apartheid, there lives were at least materially better. Viva ANC! Viva!!!

  • Other Justin - 2011-05-11 15:13

    The cANCer are professionals. They can take anything that is working and completely F*** it up. This is typical of any cANCer run area. The rates at which cANCer areas decay is the only difference, the outcome is always the same, TOTAL COLLAPSE! The sooner the majority of South Africans realise this, the sooner we can put some accountable people in government and get things working properly for all South Africans. The cANCer is a virus for South Africa, effective opposition politics is the cure, competition breeds excellence. WAKEUP SA!

      Matt - 2011-05-11 15:32

      Hey... f'ing up a country takes effort you know :-) Hoping SA finds a cure for cANCer soon

  • sizwemqobo - 2011-05-11 15:39

    Those of us who call this place home have no option but to weep when reminded about this state of affairs. Pity those in charge of the town seem to have developed a thick skin to tolerate this mess.

      Dave Benoni - 2011-05-11 17:10

      Blame the Xhosa Nostra

  • Michael Lockett - 2011-05-11 17:01

    It's time for the community to take action against the ANC... by not voting. If they really want anything to change, they need to change their vote.

  • Dave Benoni - 2011-05-11 17:15

    All political parties that do not share the ANC's Socialist policies should "Home In" on this disgraceful state of affairs and publicise this as an illustration of how bad things can REALLY get under cANCer control.

  • SNOTKOP - 2011-05-11 19:59

    sounds just like Emalahleni

  • Boer - 2011-05-11 21:38

    This is how all of SA will look in 20 years from now. F#CKED. Thanks to all the dummies that vote for the anc.

  • RATIONALE - 2011-05-11 23:06

    I AM A BLACK SOUTH AFRICAN, FROM THE EASTERN CAPE, AND I GET VERY ANGRY WITH THE ANC WHEN I READ A STORY LIKE THIS. OF COURSE FOR ME IT'S JUST A REMINDER STORY BECAUSE I KNOW THIS IS TRUE IN MANY SMALL TOWNS IN THE OLD TRANSKEI. BUTTERWORTH IS NOT MUCH BETTER, ETC. HOWEVER, THE AMOUNT OF VITRIOL AND RACIAL CONNOTACTIONS ON THIS SITE WORRIES ME, SCARES ME MORE THAN MALEMA SCARES ME. I FEAR THAT MOST WHITES JUST SEE US BLACK PEOPLE AS ALL THE SAME. TAKE FOR EXAMPLE THE GUY WHO SAYS THE BRITISH TAUGHT THE LOCALS TO WRITE...; ANOTHER ONE SAYS "BACK TO THE BUSH..." THESE WILL DEFINITELY SCARE RATIONAL BLACKS AND HOLD THEM BACK FROM VOTING WITH THEIR HEADS. SO HELEN, PLEASE HELP THESE SICK PEOPLE WHO POST SUCH RACIST COMMENTS TO WORK WITH YOU NOT AGAINST YOU. MY MIND TELLS ME TO GIVE THE DA MY VOTE , BUT WHAT MONSTER AM I UNLEASHING HERE?

      AJ - 2011-05-12 08:34

      What do you mean 'monster' in respect of the DA? You are talking about a party that has it's roots in opposition of aparthied, lead by an anti-apartheid campaitgner that is making goods strides in service delivery and is getting the thumbs up in terms of how it handles the money w.er.t audits etc. How the hell is ANY of that a 'monster'? As for your dislike of some white comments, you dont have to look too hard to find the same thing from blacks too. What does it take for people to use the only tool they have to actually better their lives - their vote. The mind boggles...

      AJ - 2011-05-12 08:50

      @RATIONALE: Go look at the Sowetan comments, you'll be shocked. And at the end of it youll at least have a much more balanced perspective. PS the most racist DA Supporter will NOT be the guy who is sent to sort out your province. Whoever is though will do more in a year than the ANC do in 10. You figure out what you want in life for yourself and your kids.

      eJay - 2011-05-12 09:15

      A1 AJ

  • pirate.1970 - 2011-05-11 23:06

    Mr Mayor...plz stop arsing about! The lawlessness on our roads in Mthatha has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with a shortage of personnel or the expense in training them! Get rid of the BAD apples that are corrupt and accept favours or bribes instead of doing what they ought to; let them understand how to treat all people, not only those who speak their language and have similar physical characteristics; in fact, let them DO something for a change - some of their behinds are getting bigger than their heads; instead of sitting there in traffic, or casually driving, when these driving violations occur, actually apprehend the culprit. Integrity is not tought in an academy, SIR, you grow up with it. Discipline...ouch...not a familiar term! The only time these officers are working (on everybody's nerves!!) is when an ANC bigshot is in town and they "lawfully" take part in the circus with sirens and lights blazing. This pathetic excuse is worth commenting on...as for the 100 fires, what a joke? Yes, it is clear why a vote for another party would be a spoilt ballot, Mr Prez! As u did with the UDM u'd do if any other party should run a council. Withhold the budget...the result is no surprise. Yes, we remember the battles the UDM had to fight, and the denial and justification by the ANC. No-one will be allowed to prove fairly and on even ground they can do a better job than the ANC! They are trying their best to unsettle CT and the WC. What a disgrace?

  • StoneKnows - 2011-05-12 08:27

    Didnt they Vote UDM and it claims to have been sabotaged by the ANC which is believable, then they voted ANC and things got worse where the ANC were in control of budgets. What would be the ANC's excuse as we understand UDM's?

  • jbs.issues - 2011-05-12 17:47

    JJ Cape Town I agree 100% with the sentiments expressed on this Mthatha issue. I was born only 98km from this place and grew up there. My family is still there and in Mthatha. Well, the whole former transkei region is messed up and rotten to the core. Very sad indeed! Small surrounding towns are in exactly the same mess but politicians are driving around in expensive flashy municipal financed vehicles (tax and ratepayers money of course)!You run the real risk of being targeted, I mean targeted, should you attempt to challenge these thieves. I just don't know how to express myself!!! Its real bad. I laughed when I heard that Mthatha was also preparing to host a world cup team or two, couldnt believe it! The new stadium is standing incomplete and as you can imagine, thosuands if not millions have been siphoned off by these thieves. Everything is just one big mess. Mhh, and politician's sons,daughters and extended families all own businesses and drive flashy cars too! I am not just a critic of the system. I have many years management and operational experience in municipalities and large ones too. Guaranteed, with their existing budgets and resources, I could show them a thing or two if they would just allow me to do so, but we all know that I would then the biggest threat. If you have never been to this area, go but prepare yourself mentally and physically for a very challenging time. The people though are very nice - its the politicians who ahev messed up.

  • Langa Sun Plaatjie - 2014-05-05 23:10

    Im im from Mthatha and damn everything in this article i so true and these Mthatha *ssh*l*s wil stil vote for the sh*ty cANCer. Some of them are busy shouting on social network that "SIYANQOBA ANC" F*c*n Prickx

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