Delivery is never a political weapon

2012-01-21 11:25

Once again ordinary people find themselves to be collateral damage in the ANC’s internal strife. Service delivery has become the weapon of choice in the war that followed when Cabinet decided to place five Limpopo ­departments under national government control. For example, hospital patients have gone hungry because service providers feared not being paid.

The evidence before the public suggests that the action is warranted. Even the Limpopo ­government, which is R2 billion in the red, must admit that they’re broke even though they do not like central government’s decision.

But elsewhere in this newspaper we show ­evidence of how badly other departments outside Limpopo have managed their budgets.

For example, the Auditor-General reported that the Northern Cape’s health department had lost 43% of its budget – R1.1 billion of R2.7 billion in either unauthorised, irregular or fruitless expenditure. Yet there has been hardly a murmur from central government. Central government should not only act when a provincial government is unable to pay its creditors or its workers.

Although there have been interventions in departments in the Eastern Cape, Free State and Gauteng, the silence of central government on culprits across the board lends credence to claims by some in the Limpopo government and ANC that the Limpopo takeover was factional.

Dragging seven ministers out of a Cabinet ­lekgotla to address a hastily arranged media ­conference suggests there was more to the action than met the eye. It smacked of the Thabo Mbeki-era where even appropriate action against wrong-doers was reserved for opponents of those in charge of the state machinery.

The timing of the central government’s decision – which came last month just before an ANC provincial elective conference – caused the Limpopo government to earn undeserved sympathy, even though they were unable to pay service providers and doctors, teachers and other civil servants.

By correctly targeting Limpopo but leaving out equally wasteful provinces, the central government has added to suspicions that once again, state machinery is being used in ANC battles.

Still the full might of the law must be visited upon those who use service delivery as a political battleground.

The crisis in Limpopo should show political leaders and technocrats that they really need to care about the people they have up to now only used as fodder in their sectarian battles.

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