Issue #2 - 29 October 2008

by Bantu Holomisa, MP – UDM President

Issue #2 (28 October 2008)

Perhaps it would be best to start this topic by reminding everyone that service delivery isn't simply something that Government does - it is a constitutional imperative. The Bill of Rights guarantees certain basic freedoms and services for every South African. The quality of our freedom, and indeed the legitimacy of the entire democratic project, depends upon the fulfilment of the legitimate expectations of South Africans to be delivered certain basic services as promised in the Constitution. It is an interpretation of service delivery that has been endorsed by the Constitutional Court.

As leader of the United Democratic Movement (UDM) I have been vocal about service delivery for these reasons. It is convenient for critics of my views
- those who will blindly follow the ANC even if it runs off a cliff - to ignore the essential constitutional framework that inspires my comments. It is the UDM's duty, just like every other stakeholder in this country, to consistently promote and protect the service delivery that underpins our democratic dispensation.

This is no small matter. Often the official response to my comments is that the ANC will eventually get around to delivering services to everybody. The sheer arrogance of this type of statement always amazes me. If service delivery is to be piecemeal and ad hoc, why doesn't the ruling party say so honestly in its election campaigns? No, come election time they promise the world.

And exactly who decides which communities are 'deserving' of service delivery and which ones are not? Do the loudmouths in the ruling party who refuse to acknowledge well-founded criticism - who respond with insults instead of reasoned argument - really not understand the unjustness of the present service delivery failures, particularly in the townships and rural areas? Our Constitution says that all citizens are equal and free but because of patchy service delivery by the ANC Government some enjoy the fruits of our freedom whilst others do not. I know that a suburban street in Pretoria could rival in services and aesthetics any street in the most developed capital cities of the world; whereas my home community in Mqanduli has no more services than many devastated villages in Afghanistan. For all you'd know Pretoria and Mqanduli might as well be in different universes, never mind the same country.

This is how the seeds for second revolutions were sown in many countries.

The UDM will not stand by quietly whilst this trend is allowed to develop.

It is also fashionable to accuse us of being lone alarmists who exaggerate the extent of service delivery failures in this province. The truth is that every person who reads this will know what the state of our country is. They will also know that independent commentators have come to the same conclusion as the UDM, not because there is some huge conspiracy against the ruling party, but because it is the daily reality of every person residing in this country.

And spare us the misplaced references to Apartheid - nobody in this country has suddenly forgotten the devastating evil of the old regime. It is exactly because we expected better from the ANC that we are holding them to account.

It's absolute twaddle for the ANC to expect us to use the old regime as a benchmark to evaluate their performance. It is disrespectful of every person who sacrificed to attain our freedom. The benchmark is not the past, but the Constitution.

Yes there have been improvements since 1994, but these are inadequate. They are less than the Constitution guarantees and they are less than the ANC has promised for nearly 15 years in Government.

Allow me to highlight some of the service delivery issues, because they bear repeating - a thousand times even, as long as Government eventually listens or gets booted out of office!

Service delivery has faltered due to a lack of capacity in government; a study of departmental reports reveals that large numbers of key positions in the provincial and local administrations are vacant. Perhaps the most difficult part to swallow of the situation is that those vacancies co-exist with huge unemployment numbers - for that governance failure alone I believe the ANC no longer deserves to govern this country.

I have on numerous occasions highlighted the total lack of strategic planning by Government. There is a haphazard approach to maintenance of existing projects and the implementation of new ones. Thus one will regularly find housing developments erected without environmental assessment or basic water, sanitation and electric infrastructure; afterwards these areas turn into environmental nightmares not fit for human habitation.

These are not opposition party fabrications - these are the daily sufferings of vast numbers of people.

Again - as with skills shortages - poor planning is especially prevalent in the vital service delivery departments; namely Health, Education, Home Affairs and Social Development. For instance, when we have 37000 vacancies for nurses and doctors in this country we must realize that something has gone horribly wrong in the administration of the Health Department.

Performance management and a culture of accountability have evaporated among many of the top politicians and officials at national, provincial and local government level. Service delivery has failed because the ruling politicians are not held accountable, in turn they don't hold senior management accountable. In the end, it is all about political will. Clearly the political will to really make a difference to the lives of the people is not their first priority.

It is time for the people of South Africa to use their vote to show these people the door who have had 15 years chance to fulfill their promises. The voters have an opportunity in less than nine months to usher in fresh new governments in several provinces that will deliver on the constitutional imperative of service delivery, whilst nationally reducing the power and arrogance of the ANC.

Let's talk!
Write to me (at bholomisa@udm.org.za) and tell me what you think
Bantu Holomisa

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