Letter to President Mbeki regarding "Matiyane Village water crisis" from the UDM President (1 September 2008)

Dear Sir

The abovementioned matter refers.

On Saturday 30 August 2008 I was doing constituency work, in my capacity as leader of the UDM, at Matiyane Village in the Phunda Maria region of Limpopo. However before we went to the said village, we paid a courtesy visit to His Majesty Hosi Shilungwa Mhinga II in his offices. We were welcomed there by him and his Councillors. Hosi Mhinga raised three critical issues namely: water, roads and the arrogance of the Demarcation Board.

Chief Mhinga felt very strongly that areas of his jurisdiction are being annexed by the Demarcation Board to other tribal areas without consultation or consent from the affected local leaders and communities.

The local dam and water resources under his jurisdiction are being diverted to other villages and urban areas, whereas the local villages and communities are not being supplied with water by the Local Government. We however requested Hosi Mhinga to submit his concerns in writing so that we can take them with your office. For easy reference see the attached memorandum addressed to myself dated 1 September 2008 from him.

The other burning issue that I'm encountering throughout my travels in rural areas is the question of the property rates tax being implemented by Local Governments now. The simple question people are asking is: "What services are we receiving for the tax we're paying?" The reality is that these people receive no water, roads are impassable, no sewage services are provided.

Importantly, it must be noted that these rural communities have built their homes on their own without assistance from the state like many people in urban areas. They are calling for the implementation of the property rates tax in rural areas to be halted until there is proper infrastructure on the ground to justify the levying of rates.

Visit to Matiyane village
At Matiyane village I met the local Chief/Headman and members of the community. One speaker after another raised the issue of the Local Government not supplying them with water; the taps have been closed, and they have not been told why. The state of the roads was also a common complaint. They are concerned that they are on the verge of a cholera outbreak because people are resorting to using water sources shared with animals. Apparently Local Government councillors have been promising them since January 2008 that the reservoir would be fixed, but nothing has come of these promises. They alleged that the water to their village was only cut once placards advertising my impending visit went up in public, the local ANC councillor who was present when these allegations were made, could not refute them. The community is wondering whether their water will be restored after my departure.

Another issue that was raised is the question of wildlife from the Kruger National Park destroying their property and killing their livestock; they're calling on Government to install proper fencing between them and the adjacent Kruger National Park.

Visit to Tshivhase village
We proceeded to Tshivhase village in Thoyandou where we met Local Traditional Leaders and their communities. The issue of the property rates tax was once again raised and local people voiced their opposition to it.

The local headmen who attended the meeting complained that they have not received salary increases since 1994. In this meeting the young people who have been volunteering in various government departments in particular the safety and security department have raised concern about the lack of their absorption for permanent employment. They feel strongly that the system if flawed and is laced with corruption. The contributors to the former Venda pension scheme told the meeting that the department of finance which took over this pension is refusing to co-operate with them. They asked your office to intervene so as to allay their fears that their monies might have been misused.

Finally, I would suggest that the situation in Matiyane village requires urgent attention. It would be advisable to instruct the Provincial Government and Local Government to brief you about exactly what is happening there. I sincerely hope that somebody will take note of this correspondence and do something, because it looks like the infighting in the ANC is causing service delivery at Local Government and Provincial Government and other institutions of the state to grind to a halt. We have raised many complaints of this nature with various Government institutions, but it seems that internal ANC politics is taking precedence over the needs of the people.

We will hand the copy of this letter to the Human Right Commission and Public Protector for them to conduct their own investigations - in the hope that somehow we can spur Government into action to deal with the plight of these communities.

Yours sincerely

Bantu Holomisa, MP
UDM President

Cc Human Rights Commission
Public Protector
Relevant Communities
Hosi Mhinga
Media
Limpopo Premier
Minister of Local Government - Sidney Mufamadi

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