ANC and DA missed chance in Alex to show genuine leadership
When the township of Alexandra celebrated 100 years of existence in 2012, the government spent almost R2bn in the area. The City of Johannesburg at the time boasted of having built 14,500 houses, renovated and converted three hostels into family units and supplied clean water and electricity to the thousands who live there. It is not true that nothing has been done to develop the sprawling township.
We will be the first to admit that there are noticeable developments that have taken place since former president Thabo Mbeki launched the Alexandra Renewal Project. Houses, clinics, schools, shopping centres, parks and roads have been built. From afar, the township is no longer the Alex of 18 years ago.
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It is only when you drive deep into the township that you start questioning whether the developments mentioned are worthy of the R2bn price tag.Shacks continue to mushroom, in some instances on driveways and pavements. Roads have been washed away and rubbish has piled up. The 7km2 township is home to at least 200,000 people. The shortage of building space is acute. Initially some residents were moved to other townships. The government then built high-rise buildings and acquired more land close to the township. But because Alexandra is strategically located just across from Johannesburg's economic nerve centre, Sandton, more and more people have moved to the township, erecting more shacks between spaces to which new RDP recipients had moved.
The influx of migrants has created tensions. The ANC and DA governments seem to have no answer to the problem.
The tensions reached a new high when locals took to the streets to protest against slow delivery of basic services. However, a quick look at the leaders of the protest shows that there is more to the protest than what is on the list of demands.
A number of the leaders are known ANC activists. This is not unusual since Alexandra is home to leading figures in the ANC, but it is possible that the protest may have been hijacked by the ANC to use what appears to be legitimate concerns as a political tool to take the fight to the DA.
What we have seen in Alexandra over the past few weeks is the rise of petty politicking and an absence of the politics of maturity. Critical spheres of government pointed fingers at each other when they should have been collaborating to find answers and solutions to calm a volatile situation. That the ANC runs national government and the province, while the DA runs the City of Johannesburg, should not give rise to finger-pointing and cheap political point scoring, even in a tough election campaign.
Even the president of the country, who has the responsibility of co-ordinating the three spheres of government, couldn't rise above petty politicking and opted to go to Alex in his capacity as ANC president on the campaign for a few extra votes. He should have taken that platform as president of the country, alongside the premier of Gauteng, the mayor of Johannesburg and all responsible MECs and councillors, regardless of party affiliation. May 8 can't come soon enough.
The DA has accused the ANC of instigating the protests. While we can't agree outright with that assertion without proof, the protests in Alex, Bekkersdal, parts of Tshwane and the Western Cape seem strangely well co-ordinated. We just hope that the ANC is mature enough to understand that inciting communities to go on the rampage and destroy public property to weaken your political opponent is akin to cutting off your nose to spite your face.
The DA government must also take responsibility for the mess that is Alexandra today. It can't shift the blame to the ANC when it has been in power for almost three years. The roads that were washed away in flooding need to be fixed, and the litter and rubbish collected on time, just as it is done across the highway.