Not one single tap for 2,000 residents – John Steenhuisen

DA IL says community of Dakota Road, on edge of Upington, has all but been abandoned by govt

Not one single tap for 2,000 residents. That should get a government fired

7 February 2020

Note to Editors: The following remarks were delivered today by the Leader of the Democratic Alliance, John Steenhuisen MP, during the "Real State of the Nation Tour" in the Northern Cape. Steenhuisen was joined by DA Northern Cape Provincial Leader, Andrew Louw MPL.

Please find an attached soundbite, by John Steenhuisen MP.

My fellow South Africans

It is wonderful to be out here in Upington – in our biggest province with the biggest skies and the widest horizons. The Northern Cape has a way of humbling you with its sheer size and distance.

But there is something else that also seems to come with all this distance, and that is abandonment and neglect. It seems that the further you are from the ANC’s corridors of power, the further you are from their mind. This community of Dakota Road, on the edge of Upington, has all but been abandoned by its government.

When I was first told that a settlement of over 2 000 people had to survive without a single water tap, I thought that something had got lost in translation, or that this was some kind of exaggeration. I could not believe that thousands of people living in one of the hottest and driest parts of the country had no piped water.

But I have seen it here with my own eyes – an entire informal settlement that has been here for eight years with no running water at all. This is a shameful indictment of the ANC local government elected to serve this community. I am told that the water tanks placed here by the local government are filthy and unhygienic, and that they aren’t filled according to the municipality’s own schedule. This is meant to happen twice a week, but residents are lucky if they get water once a week.

In fact, if it weren’t for the ongoing efforts of the DA ward councillor, Flip van der Steen, this would happen even less frequently. When these tanks run dry and the water trucks stay away, residents turn to the DA councillor to light a fire under the ANC local government, because they know they will have no joy with the ANC council itself. It takes filed reports from van der Steen to get this ANC government to uphold its Constitutional duty and provide citizens with drinking water.

How can this be? Twenty-five years into our democracy, how can a community of thousands not get something as basic as piped water from its government?

The worst is, installing taps and piping water into this community would cost a fraction of what the ANC government is paying to bring water in by truck. Several years ago councillor van der Steen tabled a motion to have 25 taps installed here, at a cost of R70,000. Predictably this motion was opposed by council, and they chose instead to carry on paying R250,000 to bring in the water by truck.

Why would they do this? Why would they deliberately choose not to solve a major service delivery issue at a fraction of the price, if it wasn’t to someone’s advantage to keep the status quo? You only need to look at the number of ANC government officials and public reps who do business with the state right across South Africa to know that this is no conspiracy theory.

But this community’s problems don’t start and end with piped water. This is also a place where bucket toilets can still be found, despite continuous promises to eradicate them. Just recently this municipality had to return R22 million earmarked for the eradication of bucket toilets because it had failed to spend it.

You have to ask yourself: Who is this government serving, if not the people living here? Who are they looking out for and to whom are they loyal? And the answer is: Themselves. This ANC local government, just like almost every other ANC local government across the country, exists first and foremost to keep itself, its families and its friends in jobs and in contracts. If you are outside of this closed circle, then you simply don’t matter to them.

They don’t care if you live in a community ravaged by violent crime, and particularly gender-based violence, as we see here. They don’t care that drug abuse is rife in this community, and that drug dealers are allegedly being protected by corrupt SAPS officers. They don’t care about the chronic unemployment that steals the dreams and future of just about every young person here. They don’t care that they haven’t installed a single running tap here this past decade. Because they’re too busy caring about themselves.

Fellow South Africans, this is not the country you were promised. This is not the freedom they spoke about. And this is certainly not the way our democracy is meant to work. This ANC government cannot expect you to keep on voting them into power while they deny you your basic human rights, year after year after year.

Your vote hires a government, and your vote also fires a government. That is why DA-run municipalities consistently outperform ANC-run municipalities on every possible measure, from housing to basic services, and from education to healthcare. Because if we don’t deliver, we know we could – and should – be replaced. That’s how a democracy works.

If you want to see changes here in Dakota Road, Upington, no one can bring those changes but you. Yes, a different government could do a better job, but the only way to get such a government is by dumping the old one and installing a new one. And you do that with your vote.

Issued by John Steenhuisen, Leader of the Democratic Alliance, 7 February 2020