But we shouldn't blame Apartheid...

2013-04-15 13:40

The issue of whether or not we can blame apartheid is not what we should be debating. Minister Trevor Manuel suggested to various heads of the public service that ‘we can no longer blame apartheid for shoddy service delivery and that we should be taking responsibility for our actions’ (Quintal, 2013, para.2). And President Zuma says we cannot stop blaming Apartheid comparing beautiful parts of cities with squatters as if Khayelitsha would ever remotely look like Camps Bay or Constantia.

The debate we should be having should be on the decisions and actions (or lack thereof) taken by the current regime to redress the imbalances created by the Apartheid regime. Of course no one can deny the impact of Apartheid, but surely in a democracy, we should expect that the incumbents take responsibility for their actions and not simply blame their predecessors as President Zuma did in the Limpopo textbook saga.

President Zuma blamed a dead Verwoerd for textbooks that were stored in a warehouse whilst many Limpopo pupils were waiting for them (Mohamed, 2012, para.1). In this case, it simply does not make sense to blame Apartheid for officials who ordered textbooks and failed to ensure that they were delivered to the schools who needed them. It wasn’t Verwoerd who ordered the books or failed to deliver them, or turned down help to deliver the textbooks, when people offered to help.

This is what Minister Trevor Manuel refers to when he said we cannot blame apartheid for the shoddy services government is delivering. If a municipality fails to build toilets for poor residents who are still using the bucket system even though the municipality receives grants from national and provincial government to be used for such things as adequate and acceptable sanitation facilities. How then can anyone blame this on Apartheid when there are resources that ought to be used to improve the quality of life for the poor who are unable to do so for themselves?

Many municipalities and provincial government departments receive funds from National Government but return them to Treasury when such funds could have been used to provide the services many communities across South Africa desperately need.

The Auditor General would tell you many stories of how many public entities have incompetent people holding ‘key positions’ when they do not have the skills to do the job; or the many public entities who have ‘ material misstatements’ on their financial statements, tenders being awarded to family and friends of the public institutions’ staff, or the amount of money they fail to account for and even worse when there are no consequences for such. These are not things we can blame on Apartheid, these are the issues Minister Trevor Manuel suggests should not be blamed on Apartheid. Blaming them on Apartheid would mean that our government should not be expected to take responsibility for its decisions, actions (or lack thereof) within the next 100 years.

In a modern day democracy, politicians are expected to give account of their actions. In a country with a government that is perceived by many to be corrupt, it would help to be more honest, accountable and open in the way government conducts its business, failure to do this simply provide those who hold such views about the government with more evidence of the government’s perceived corruption.

Back in 2008 just before the 2009 elections, Thubelisha Homes went bankrupt, owing many contractors a lot of money that resulted not only on housing project delays, but many losing their jobs. The people who lost their jobs were not the ones responsible for the agency going bankrupt but people who did the actual construction work. And the accounting officer for that, Minister Sisulu was moved to another department. More than two years later, the flats along the N2 remain empty, and during the winter rains, you will see people flooded in their shacks when there are houses paid for with public funds, that could accommodate them. This is an example of what the Auditor General pointed out, that there are usually no consequences for the bad decisions taken by government officials. Whilst there are real consequences for the people who desperately need services

Then there are the houses on EMMS Drive in Nyanga, they are shaped more like a bus and had cracks on the walls within one year of completion. Many examples exist like the houses in Makhaza and Site B, Khayelitsha where contractors received payment for them but did not complete the houses, worse when a contractor is paid when the house does not even exist. And our President dares to compare Gugulethu to Camps Bay when the government he leads has expanded Gugulethu and created many Gugulethus through the Less Formal Township Establishment Act No.113 of 1991. How then does he blame Apartheid when his government is simply carrying on from where the architects of Apartheid stopped?

Government cannot blame Apartheid for the way our Townships look without acknowledging the role the current regime has played in ensuring that the legacy of Vorwoerd, B J Vorster, and PW Botha lives on. Somebody, somewhere at Luthuli House or the Union Buildings must take responsibility and not blame. Citizens expect a democratic government to respond to their needs and not blame. Trillions have been spent by our government since 1994, surely we must ask whether or not we’re doing what is meant to be done with that money and not be expected to accept the ‘its Verwoerd’s fault’ answer…. What will democracy mean if those we elect into public office cannot take responsibility for their actions?

It would be very stupid of anyone to blame the Apartheid regime for what Minister Trevor Manuel says is 'shoddy service' delivery when the Apartheid regime is not responsible for the provision of such services. Hence the argument is that we shouldn't blame Apartheid but look at the decisions or actions of the current regime to see if indeed they are fulfilling their constitutional obligations by managing or using resources more 'economically, efficiently, and effectively' as the laws of the land demand. Can't blame Verwoerd for looting of state resources that are meant for service delivery.

References

Mohamed, M. (2012). Textbook mess ‘Verwoerd’s fault’. Retrieved 12th April, 2013, from http://www.citizen.co.za/citizen/content/en/citizen/local-news?oid=296199&sn=Detail&pid=40&Textbook-mess-%E2%80%98Verwoerd%E2%80%99s-fault%E2%80%99

Quintal, G. (2013). Manuel says government can't blame apartheid anymore. Retrieved 15th April, 2013, from http://mg.co.za/article/2013-04-03-manuel-says-government-cant-blame-apartheid-anymore

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