Two towns say enough is enough, plus five highlights from 'Vrye Weekblad'

Here's what's hot in the latest edition of the Afrikaans digital weekly

05 February 2021 - 07:33 By TimesLIVE
The community got together and got things done.
The community got together and got things done.
Image: Willie Jones

Fed-up with poor service delivery, and supported by a radical high court decision, two small towns in North West Province are taking charge of local government laxity and saying enough is enough. This attitude may be the start of a nationwide revolution against poor local governance, Anneliese Burgess writes in today’s Vrye Weekblad, and other towns may want to follow suit.

“Koster is a dust cloud of a town in the North West Province,” Burgess writes in the latest edition of the progressive Afrikaans weekly. “Municipal infrastructure has gone to pot, evidenced by sewage in the streets and rivers, taps that have run dry, and rubbish as far as the eye can see.”

It had been going on for years. Emotions reached a boiling point in 2018 when the mayor of this dilapidated town had the access road to her luxury guest house tarred. Her home, and other businesses she owns, subsequently went up in flames and she fled to Rustenburg, along with 12 other council members.

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No sooner had the municipality been officially declared dysfunctional, than the seeds of community-based despair and a spirit of DIY took root in the community.

After several water trucks were burnt during violent protest action, the local ratepayers’ association went to court to demand that local residents be allowed to manage water services. The municipality committed to solving the problems and the province said it would assist with sewage to the tune of R60m, costs that would eventually escalate to an alleged R144m, but the Koster community kept suffering.

It was never going to work, says Carel van Heerden, who is leading the fightback that is galvanising other small towns. After five months of vasbyt, the concerned citizens of Koster asked the high court in Mahikeng to draw a line in the sand.

Despite a vigorous court challenge from the municipality, judge FS Gura gave the local authority 10 days to resolve issues in respect of the residents’ constitutional rights to clean water and a safe environment. In a slap in the face of local government, the right to manage Koster’s water and sewage infrastructure was eventually ceded to the community on January 7.

Read more about this and more news and analysis in this week's issue of Vrye Weekblad.

Must-read articles in this week's Vrye Weekblad

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