[Fwd: South Africa: On the road to ruin]

South Africans seem to be in a bit of a foul and restless mood, with
the gyrations of our philandering president and the rather large
potholes on our roads being the subjects enjoying the attention of
raspier tongues, especially among the chattering classes.

Jacob Zuma is, frankly, not worth our breath. He's best left alone. He's
digging his own grave. Potholes - and the general decline of our
infrastructure - are another matter, however. They are a serious matter,
but only the tip of the iceberg.

Travelling around the country, one cannot but be shocked at the state of
our towns and cities. The streets are a sorry mess, squalid, with
overgrown verges, paint peeling off buildings - a general state of
neglect and decay. It's as if nobody is in charge. It is as though since
the last apartheid apparatchik was chased out of town nobody has cared
to lift a finger even to sweep the place. And with the current obsession
with renaming things, one is often even confused as to which town or
street one is in.

In days yonder, a perfect date for a township dude, dressed to the nines
of course, was taking her to the movies, and thereafter some
"window-shopping" in town. Not anymore. It's all boarded up now. Whether
it's Johannesburg, Pretoria, Durban, or any of the many small towns
across the land, some parts of the CBD have become a jungle, and even a
health hazard. No longer a place to dare to venture, let alone take a
leisurely stroll. Capital has also taken flight.

The ANC woke up quite late in the day to the crucial role played by
local government in the life of a nation. After the election in 1994,
most of the organisation's bright sparks scrambled for seats in the
national parliament. Positions in city and town councils were seen as
nothing but crumbs from the table. It was left to its third string to
run our towns and cities. And they've run them down.

Also, in trying to merge towns and townships and do away with the old
apartheid boundaries, the ANC has lumped everything together to create
huge metropolises which its hand-picked, often incompetent, mandarins
have found almost impossible to govern. It created a gulf between
rate-payers and city halls, hence the alienation.

But the biggest problem, which probably explains the nationwide protests
over service delivery, is our system of local government, which ensures
that town mayors and managers whose actions and decisions have a huge
impact on people's lives are imposed by party bosses without any say by
the governed. Such a system is obviously undemocratic, and is no credit
to our much-vaunted constitution.

People in such positions are often not sensitive to ordinary citizens'
concerns because they are not appointed or elected by them. They are
accountable to those who appointed them, the party bosses. Which is why
Amos Masondo, the dozy mayor of Johannesburg, can easily pooh-pooh the
outrage caused by the potholes which have disfigured the streets of this
metropolis. He's not bothered by the outrage. He was imposed by the ANC.
And as long as the ANC is happy with this sort of incompetence, so is he.

The country holds yet another local government election next year. It
will improve or solve nothing. We will exchange one group of
incompetents for yet another bunch of ineffectual individuals. They're
not to blame either. It's simply the outcome of an inappropriate system
of government.

It's not surprising that as we approach next year's election, none of
the political parties has suggested making the system more accountable.
They won't. The current system suits them just fine.

If you want clean streets and refuse that's removed on time, agitate for
elected representatives at local government. It's called democracy.


Anonymous 17:43  

Spot on article by an intelligent observer. Problem is that most of the voters are not in this category. Just look to Zimbabwe if you are unsure where we going to end up.

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