Let the ‘Makana’ revolution begin

Dysfunctional metros and municipalities could start falling like dominoes.
The PAC has put Tshwane on notice: it either gets its act together or, like Makana, will face dissolution. Image: Waldo Swiegers, Bloomberg

When the Makhanda (formerly Grahamstown) High Court last month ordered the dissolution of the municipality of Makana for failing in its constitutional duty to provide services to the community, the great fear among the political class was that this would unleash an orgy of similar court challenges to unseat dysfunctional municipalities around the country. 

Read: Landmark court ruling highlights crisis in SA’s cities and towns

Barely a month later, it looks like that day is at hand. 

PAC president Narius Moloto this week put the Tshwane city manager and the three major political parties – the ANC, DA and EFF – on notice that they either quit their squabbling and return to governing the city or he will approach the Pretoria High Court to have the council dissolved and placed under administration.

That would open the door to fresh elections, which could be disastrous for the ANC, says Moloto. “Let the people decide whether any of the politicians who engineered this crisis are worthy of holding office again.” 

Tshwane has been in chaos for several months, with the ANC and EFF attempting to unseat DA Mayor Stevens Mokgalapa after several votes of no confidence. That’s being appealed and is still unresolved.

The EFF hopes to emerge from this as the kingmaker and appoint one of its own as mayor. Its gripe is that the DA-controlled council under Mokgalapa is dysfunctional, resulting in a water and power crisis in and around the city.

The ANC threw its weight behind the vote of no confidence over what it called a corrupt property tender in the city. This looked like a return slap for the DA, which repeatedly hammered the ANC for corruption when it ran the city. 

Moloto says city residents are left to pay the price for the power play between the three major parties. If he gets his way, Tshwane is about to get the Makana treatment.

“The despicable display of politicking among the three major parties has descended into farce, each side more concerned about guarding the public trough from which they feed than in governing the city,” he says.

The implications of this are potentially huge for the country. Imagine, says Moloto, if residents in failed municipalities across the country used the Makana decision to toss the cadres out of office.

Read: Confirmation that municipalities are a huge burden on taxpayers

Of the 257 municipalities and 21 municipal entities assessed by the Auditor-General in 2018, only half received unqualified opinions on their financial statements, and only 19% were free of any material misstatements. 

“This is a shocking betrayal of our political liberation,” adds Moloto in a recent statement. “Those responsible must be held to account, investigated and removed from office. Those found guilty of criminal conduct must be jailed.”

Read: Auditors of SA municipalities say they are intimidated and threatened

Cilliers Brink, DA shadow deputy minister for Cooperative Development and Traditional Affairs, and formerly part of the DA’s ruling alliance in Tshwane, says it is Tshwane’s ruling council that is dysfunctional rather than the municipality itself, though this has a knock-on effect on governance in the city.

Hence, it may be harder to convince a court that the metro council should be dissolved. “But there is no doubt that many smaller municipalities around the country are failing to provide even the most basic level of services,” says Brink. “Part of that is mismanagement, part of it is corruption, and about 12 years of economic decline, which has hit the income of these municipalities. It’s hard to deny that Tshwane has become dysfunctional, and a political power play is the cause.

“The EFF has revealed itself as a faction of the ANC, and this is something the DA has had to learn the hard way.”

The DA formed coalitions with the EFF that allowed the former to govern in Tshwane, Johannesburg and Nelson Mandela Bay in the Eastern Cape. All of these coalitions have fallen apart. Brink points out that under the DA, financial governance improved to the point where Moody’s awarded it a two-notch credit upgrade. 

Michelle Rademeyer, a Freedom Front Plus (FF+) representative in the farming town of Bethal in Mpumalanga, came within a whisker of unseating the ANC candidate in the town during last year’s elections by campaigning against corruption and mismanagement.

Parts of the town have had virtually no water for most of the last year, and rely on farmers trucking water into the town.

Power cuts are a daily affair. “In addition to the Eskom outages, we also have daily power cuts implemented by the municipality,” she says.

Refuse collection in Bethal has ceased to exist for most, so private refuse collectors have stepped into the breach, charging R4 a bag for removal. The Govan Mbeki Municipality, responsible for an area covering 2.5 million square kilometres from Bethal to Secunda and Leandra, has 12 refuse trucks but only two are working.

The sewage system functions erratically and potholes have gone unrepaired for decades. Local residents try to patch the potholes to keep the roads driveable, but they are not allowed by law to make any permanent repairs. 

“I have abundant evidence of corruption in the municipality which is fed to me by local residents, so we could definitely argue that this municipality has virtually ceased to function, but the cost of bringing a Makana-style case to court means we would have to fundraise for this,” says Rademeyer.

“If we are going to get rid of dysfunctional municipalities, we would need legal assistance.”

The story of broken dreams is repeated up and down the country, from Mokopane (formerly Potgietersrus) in Limpopo to Mamusa (Schweizer-Reneke) in North West province. Many parts of Mokopane have water for two to three hours a day and roads are being destroyed by coal trucks. Power supply is erratic and people complain noisily but feel there is little they can do to change things.

It has started to dawn on smaller political parties like the FF+ and PAC that change can come from below.

As Argentine revolutionary Che Guevara observed, revolution never falls fully ripened from the tree. It has to be plucked.

Deidre Carter, former MP for Cope, recently left politics after 10 years in parliament armed with a conviction that change will only come about with grassroots movements driven by civil society and alliances with like-minded groups.

There is now a very real possibility that corrupt and mismanaged municipalities can be unseated.

Carter now works for Agri Limpopo, which has given her a deeper understanding of the privation of living in small-town and rural SA.

“This is the result of decades of mismanagement and corruption. We have to take back control of our local governance structures and restore accountability. I think the Makana judgment is a great step in the right direction.”

The Makana municipality was dragged into court by the Unemployed Peoples Movement (UPM) on the grounds that it had failed in its constitutional duty to provide basic services such as a healthy environment, health care, food, water and social security. Governance had all but collapsed. Livestock roamed the streets, refuse piled up in residential areas, the water taps ran dry for days at a time and raw sewage poured out into the community. 

Judge Stretch found that the local municipality could not provide even the most basic of services such as clean water, refuse collection and sewage, and for this reason should be dissolved. The decision put other dysfunctional metros and municipalities on notice: either perform your constitutional duties or face getting the boot.

This may turn out to be one of the most liberating court decisions in recent history, says Moloto, even though the losers in the case say they plan to appeal. “What a breath of fresh air it would be if corrupt and incompetent municipalities across the country were to be tossed out of office to face the wrath of the electorate. This court decision can and must be replicated across the country.

“While the Guptas were busy looting state-owned enterprises, the ANC not only turned a blind eye, many of its senior officials were eager participants. We now know from Open Secrets’ The Enablers report that state capture cost the country R5 trillion and five million lost job opportunities.

“Think about that for a minute, and imagine where South Africa would be today had the state capture project been strangled at birth. Not a single participant in state capture has yet been jailed, while the ruling party circles the wagons and defends those in its ranks who gaily joined in the looting.”

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…..watch the ANC try to reverse this ruling

Corrupt governments love democracy when it enriches their “comrades” private accounts, hate it when it does not

The “failing” in our democratic system is that the “winners” are able to deflect any negative PERSONAL consequences of the decisions they make.

Good management and LEADERSHIP practices through thousands of years of human history stands out when it makes the leaders (the Officer class, as it were) the FIRST group to be PERSONALLY impacted by the decisions (good AND bad!) they make.

Thus political parties that make losing election decisions must be decapitated from the TOP DOWN. Not discard representatives from the bottom up (the ones who had less infl making the fateful decisions).

This principle applies EVERYWHERE. Business included!

The real challenge is to find a way to insulate the quality of service delivery from the quality of the intellectual capacity of the average voter. A democratic system enables people to change their entire community into a reflect their personal or private circumstances. This phenomenon is moving at great speed to transform the entire country to resemble the traditional rural homelands.

When the right to vote was restricted in the industrialised part of South Africa, the few shaped the infrastructure to resemble their mindsets. Now that the right to vote is universal, the majority enforced their particular mindset on the shape of the infrastructure and service delivery.

The problem is, those voters who destroyed service delivery do not like the consequences of their own actions. They protest and burn tyres to demonstrate their unhappiness with their own influence over service delivery! In short, they are protesting as a group, against their personal levels of intellectual capacity. What else can explain the situation?

Now, the court came to their rescue and reversed the decision of the voters. The municipal council, that was elected by the voters, is disbanded by the courts. The court says, by implication, that the intellectual capacity of the average voter is far too inferior to allow him to demonstrate his wishes. The court says that the voters are not accountable. They are not compos mentis. You have the right to vote, but for your own sake, don’t use it!

Privatisation of service delivery is the insulation that is needed to save service delivery from the average voter. A company is not a democratic system. He who has the most brainpower has the most votes. This is what we need to save the country from the ANC.

I think you are correct in broad terms Sensei but matters of mundane detail are a little more complex. As regards companies and municipalities one recent similarity is that quite a few are run for the personal benefit of those who operate them, not for the voters or shareholders. Privatisation to such a company will not solve any problems, it will maybe make them worse; think of the SASSA grants.

What is truly missing is honesty. Whether it be municipality or company, unless it is honest, the voters, ratepayers and shareholders will be let down or swindled. SA has a pervasive culture of dishonesty probably stemming from a sense of entitlement, revenge, lax controls, desperation, amoral laws etc etc. This generally manifests itself in destruction of wealth and property.

Having waffled, what does this mean practically. Bluntly, municipalities are pretty much heading for insolvency. Between the demand for free services, migration to cities, a declining rate and tax base, corrupt systems (either by law (BEE etc) or by systematic dishonesty), expenditure will exceed income (like SA itself). The inevitable result will be continuation of the decline we are seeing. The courts cannot hold back this tide.

Thank you for your comment. Why do you buy groceries at Shoprite and beer at Tops if you believe that private companies are dishonest and are “run for their own benefit”? We already trust Spar to deliver our food and water. Why can they not handle refuse removal and sewerage systems?

The profit objective is a relentless force that instills accountability, efficiency and superior customer service. Is this not exactly what we need?

With privatisation, the focus is on the consumer. With any government service, the focus is on the politician and the official.

Service delivery began to implode the day that people who don’t own property recieved the power to extort money from those who do.

Nice description of recent African social developments North of our borders ….

You are correct Paul,

Many grasp at the salvation put out by some of privatization as solving everything.

Things are complex as you said and privileging services will inevitably make these more expensive just by the principle of cost of capital gov vs private and the profit-motive (gov does not have to make money on service).

Yet sure. expensive services are better than none…but only a few will be able to afford them.

Incompetence and corruption brought in by BEE and cadres needs to be fixed, the only long term solution.

erratum “privileging” = privatization

Casi_negro, no government can deliver a service at a lower cost than private enterprise. When a government competes with private enterprise in the delivery of any service, then the taxpayer is subsidising an inefficient service provider to the detriment of the efficient alternative. Robbing Peter to pay Paul.

Protect me from myself? Democracy is a problem, hence a benevolent dictatorship would work better.

Not a single municipality in SA is bankable. Predominantly due to ANC corruption and mismanagement. Time to ban parties at local government levels.

The solution is simple. Pre 94 city and town councilors were not paid, it were honorary positions.

It attracted people who had life, professional and business experience and who put the needs of the town first. The system worked well.

The current exorbitant salaries at especially the smaller municipalities can be much better applied for better services.

Also, the votes of the community are exponentially more than those of the few councilors.

Pollution of any form is a sign of being unsustainabe.

In a green economy, there is a commitment to eliminating all forms of pollution- air, land, water and earth.

This demands a high level of responsibility from all citizens. Essentially acknowledging that there is no “away” after “throw” and a high level of mindfulness regarding personal “waste” issues…

Water is the principal element for sustaining life on the planet. A water plan is the first most essential element in any green plan moving forward. For a start, anyone who thinks the World can continue poo’ing in the potable drinking water should expect a terminal World War event, but otherwise essentially these plans work best when considering the overall lie of the land.

Water flows downhill and can be controlled along the contour lines.

Unfortunately municipal planners have historically used the “square grid” system in designing roads and services for municipal plots- square like a box or a man for example.

Planners have paid little or no attention to the contour lines of the earth- which are curvaceous and diverse= like women, essentially. A lot more diversified- complex even!

Landfills are great repositories for items that are non-organic and cannot be composted. They are registered and certified storage spaces where, once we figure out how to up cycle or recycle a particular element or toxin- we can collect and process further. A kind of a waste library that temporarily holds stuff we don’t yet know how to handle, if you like.

To suit a green economy and prepare the way for the 4th industrial revolution, and the quantum flows of the gig economy, we need to redesign the system around water first and foremost.

Those who are currently fully employed and short on leisure time, can contract those who are underemployed and needing of an income.

Essentially planning around key organic energy principals in our local community will turn lawns into gardens, toilets and organic waste into compost, rainfall into potable water, sewage slime dams into fish hatcheries etc. This will take a very high level of skills transfer and community development. The traditional divisive and money-driven political mindset will not crack it.

The community-orientated, organic energy valuing and cooperative sharing mindset will. Choose wisely! Viva the green economy viva!

The whole country will soon be put on notice by the IMF. Wait for it …

The IMF cannot/will not save us. Why keep on with this. Look north to Zim.

@ Lulu: I suspect nobody is expecting the IMF to resolve anything. It is but another milestone in the great decline we are steadily sinking into. As Sensei describes it, the larger portion of the voting / acquiescing population has the mindset which is slowly developing into the new societal circumstance we are witnessing. Nothing but a few generational changes will change the end result we are staring at in our lifetime. Sad but difficult to avoid.

Just to give folks an idea of the magnitude of the demise of Grahamstown, pre 94, this municipality employed 40 people. From top to bottom. Today there are 800 people employed and we are worse off than we have ever been… And yet, despite massive lack of service delivery and blatant mismanagement, the same party gets voted in time and again. Our problem lies with the voter!!

Quite correct! This ruling will not make any difference. The same cadres will be voted in again by the voting sheep.

It’s scary that;
(a) these politicians gone unpunished and unchecked by the ruling party in their corruption, where they literally steal so much that a town becomes non-functional;
(b) the residents of these towns allow it to get to that point. Yes it may be illegal to do things like fit potholes but the way I see it is you pay for the services, if they are not delivered you shouldn’t pay. Simply withhold all rates and local taxes, pool them in a trust and use that to pay private providers for essential services along with a lawyer to protect you action and unseat the local government – one may say “pie in the sky” but I have used this on a micro scale where I had a burst sewage main on the street running into my property, after multiple attempts to have it attended to by the municipality I refused to pay any municipal bills and refused entry to my proprty of municipal workers intending to cut my power, needless to say within 3 weeks of this they were there repairing the pipe. Still too long but it worked with the help of a family friend who is a lawyer;
(c) the residents of these types of towns my physically remove these politicians. They know where their offices and houses are, go there, grab them by the neck and kick them out the door, burn down their house and threaten their families. As far as I’m concerned if they let the degradation get to that point, and allow people to live in those conditions they do not deserve fair treatment (if they cannot act fairly, why must they be treated fairly).

We need to separate local councils from politics.

The reason why councils exist is technical and actually easy = services such as water, sewerage, electricity, roads. Yet they seem to be mostly occupied with politics. What worsens this is that we have 250 of these political circuses where unelected individuals try and impose national political party objectives on often incompetent or hamstrung technocrats.

Councils should operate under executive control of competent professional technocrats with far less political influence.

There is no place for politics in sewerage. Politicians yes, but not policy.

Agreed Johan and there is no sense that the “councils” are in any way due to provide a service to ratepayers. They look after themselves first. This is a trend that starts at the very top of the ANC; look at Cyril.

Current reality is one where checks and balances are needed. Sensei queries why we should trust “private” business over councils. I say we can’t; look at Tongaat or Steinhoff, the prices of food vs what the farmer is paid and so on.

My solution; the “old” municipal concept where generally unpaid (or modestly paid) councillors select the best accountants, engineers etc they can afford and as needed to run the town or city (no AA, cadre appointment shams). They let open (no BEE etc cost adds) tenders for work that is not viable, for many reasons, to be done by the town’s resources. The subsequent contracts are managed (and kept honest) by the town engineers etc. SA has a cargo cult version of this where incompetence and corruption (often) are the rule on all sides.

Never happen I know.

Yep, very true. My grandfather served on city council for decades and as mayor too. It was public service not profession. I think they received small fees for expenses such as travel and a little bit per meeting. Now we have highly paid politicians that do nothing but politics. My ward councillor is a DA nominee that qualified as lawyer and when I had an issue with Finance and Engineering he basically sat in the meeting looking lost. How he sits on council and votes on technical or financial documents nobody knows.

With 250 municipalities, imagine the total cost to taxpayers for a few thousand political appointments that actually fulfill NO executive or managerial role. They talk and talk and bicker

End of comments.





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