South Africans need services, not bulletsBy JANET OTIENO | Thursday, February 17 2011 at 16:14
It is not the first time South Africans are out on the streets to protest against poor service delivery, echoing decades of neglect dating back to the apartheid era.
President Jacob Zuma has witnessed almost innumerable demonstrations by unemployed youth since his ascension to power in 2009. Even his launching of 17737-hotline number has not helped issues.
His rise to the top office has fuelled the present move by the citizenry as he used the very same issues, being grumbled about, as his campaign pledge. It is heartbreaking that South Africa is still witnessing a lot of injustice arising from the realities of decades of inequality.
That is why President Zuma’s administration should seize this time to find out how many problems, registered through his hotline, have been resolved. Major complaints have been about service delivery and against corrupt local authority leaders.
Even after sacking seven ministers last year on grounds of wanting performance, this wave of violent protests is not leaving President Zuma in peace. It is because South Africans are yet to see satisfactory improvement in the provision of water, electricity, healthcare, education, social security, civic services, safety, security and a host of other basic needs.
This points out that President Zuma needs to conduct a serious assessment of performances of his ministers and other relevant officials, to find out where they are missing the point.
A step-by-step approach of identifying issues angering South Africans and coming up with measurable solutions would go a long way in ensuring that service delivery is effective, without putting much political spin to the whole matter.
Ideally, such matters should not be discussed in closed boardroom meetings or five-star hotels using taxpayers’ money, but with residents who are affected by the same, then setting up reasonable targets.
Perhaps creation of independent community structures, outside government, to monitor service delivery and evaluating the same, would also be worth. I believe many South Africans would be more than glad to volunteer in such a venture.
However, if all these fail, President Zuma and Co could consider a Plan B of outsourcing many private companies to deliver services to the angry citizenry. With many private companies on board, they will try to outdo each other, to avert losing out due to underperformance.
A long term solution, however, lies in bringing about economic growth in under-developed townships by taking redistributive policies closer to their doorsteps. Poor municipalities should receive bigger shares of government grants, in a well coordinated manner to guarantee positive impact.
As protests sweep across the Arab world, South African Government should smell a cooked rat this time and act to avert a major social turmoil. Only equitable distribution of resources and improved service delivery will halt this trend in South Africa, and not bullets.
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Beyond the ballot