OPEN LETTER: Dear Mr President, these are the untold stories of my community

A village in Limpopo.
A village in Limpopo.

Kgabo Seopa

Dear Mr President,

On Monday September 10, we were together at Inkosi Albert Luthuli Convention Centre in Durban for the ITU conference. When I saw you, I wished I could whisper into your ear the daily sufferings of the community of Magagamatala and nearby villages in Limpopo. My community needs a tar road to access basic services.            

I was born and bred during the last years of apartheid in Magagamatala village, Limpopo. This village has about 400 households.

Twenty-four democratic years down the line, we do not have a tar road. Twenty-four years down the line, our brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers die daily on a dirt road. Twenty-four years down the line, the politicians of Mogalakwena Municipality and Limpopo provincial leadership still make empty promises. Twenty-four years down the line, my community is devastated!

The future is dim!

In the secluded corner, one wonders: Is this the South Africa the honorable Mr President wants to see today? What did the democratic government build for its people? It’s shocking to witness the failure to maintain even the basic infrastructure built by apartheid. 

Next year, as we head into the elections, politicians will be coming to our houses to plead for our votes. The same politicians who are never with us when we're in tears. The same politicians who always turned a blind eye to our dire situations. What a shame! 
The road D192 spans from Jakkalskuil Village through to Ga-Monare; passing through Ga-Molekwa, Lenkwane, Magagamatala, Uitspan, Masebe Nature Reserve, Ga-Mathekga, Mosuka, Dipere, Nong and Ga-Monare. This road is only 33km, but is in a bad state. It is riddled with potholes and is unsafe to use, but we use it anyway because that’s the only access point we have. We are poor communities, and we are often forced to spend too much money on repairs for our vehicles because of the roads. Without road there is no development.

The untold stories of my community is a shame under democracy. Education is the pillar of our strength. But that too, is fading away.

We recently lost the best high school principal in the entire Bakenberg South circuit - Ms Raesibe Makhado. She was also a Biology/Life Science teacher who won best Life Science teacher awards - year in, year out. She was hailed the best educator for our education circuit for more than 12 years. She produced between 90% and 100% pass rates while at our school, Bathokwa High. She produced quality results with a high number of distinctions. She drove 80km from the town of Mokopane every day, sometimes even during weekends, to contribute to the empowerment of this poor community. The community that I so much pride myself to be part of, as I’m its product. 
As we speak, at Bathokwa Secondary School, even today, there is no water. It is a quintile 1 disadvantaged school. Agricultural production comes naturally to many Africans. But without water, the piece of land at the school cannot be used for gardening, or planting crops to beneficiate kids from indigent families. At school, learners do not even have water to drink. At times, educators have to buy water. Our country needs more scientists who are homegrown and loyal to our national flag, but there are no laboratories in our schools. Twenty-four years down the line. What a shame!  

Many young people from poor villages are forced to work 10 times more to make a living. Coming from the same resourced deprived village, today I managed to graduate with Computer Science and Mathematics from the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits). I managed to pass the well renowned Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE#30089) in Dubai. I managed to attain a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from Wits Business School. I managed to be an executive at one of the top global ICT companies, thereby contributing immensely to the South African economy.

Education therefore is the only hope my community has as a way out of poverty. We need more educated young people from our own villages and communities to build our country. Currently sir, your country depends on borrowed labour and expertise from other countries. From government and state-owned entities at national, provincial and local levels, we have outsourced everything including our capacity to think. Corruption and crime continue to cripple the country. Shocking!

Unfortunately, the only hope the community has had for many years is fast fading away because of the lack of basic resources. The learners who commute daily to schools are highly in danger because the road is terrible. The community and the schools are trying, but all in vain.

In 2017, the community, together with the Bathokwa Secondary School, fundraised to have this road stabilised so that the school kids can travel to school. No one wants to use a bad road. Expert subject advisors do not come to assist poor schools as they are also concerned. The bridges sometimes collapse after heavy rains and schooling stops during this period.

The spirits of motivated teachers like Ms Makhado are swiftly dying amongst young educators because of the dirt roads. They no longer want to volunteer their extra time and weekends to help the students. Mr President, we are in shambles! What more will be left, Mr President?

We can’t build the economy of the country by depending on foreign labour. You need to invest in rural education and the road infrastructure to support the rural economies. Without a road, for example, it means village milk produces cannot transport to town while it’s still fresh. Agriculture and education are the means our people can use to emancipate themselves from poverty - a tar road is the only means for them.
Witnessing the dire situation along with other concerned community members, my wife and I created a charity organisation called Baswarateu. The aim is to emancipate the lives of these poverty-stricken communities; covering 34 school in the Bakenberg South circuit through sustainable means of education. Indirectly, we have been curbing crime and other common undesirable ills of the society. Yet, as we lose the best talented educators like Ms Makhado, it can only be one step forward and two backward. 

In these communities Mr President, we have untold stories of orphans who lost their parents due to this dirt road. These are the brothers and sisters who completely lost hope to life. This is the same road on which, in 2011, the ambulance carrying my sickly father broke down and we lost him. The shameful stories are endless. This is the deadly pain I carry daily.
I therefore always wonder, where is that dream that Inkosi Albert John Lutuli, Oliver Reginald Kaizana Tambo, Govan Archibald Mvuyelwa Mbeki, Bantu Stephen Biko, Mama Lillian Masediba Matabane Ngoyi, Walter and Mama Albertina Sisulu, Dr Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, Solomon Kalushi Mahlangu, Mama Nomzamo Winifred Madikizela-Mandela, Joe Slovo, Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa and other great leaders have fought for?

- An open letter by Kgabo Seopa, a South African civilian.

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