File picture: Simphiwe Mbokazi/African News Agency (ANA)
File picture: Simphiwe Mbokazi/African News Agency (ANA)

Midvaal communities are worlds apart on service delivery

By Manyane Manyane Time of article published Oct 18, 2021

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Johannesburg - A blueprint of service delivery. That's how the Democratic Alliance describes the Midvaal Local Municipality in Gauteng. But upon closer inspection, a tale of two cities emerges.

The municipality ranks among the country’s top performers, having had clean audit outcomes for seven consecutive years, which indicates sound financial management structures in place.

Under the leadership of the outgoing mayor, Bongani Baloyi, Midvaal went from being the 16th best-performing municipality in 2013 to an impressive fifth position nationally.

Residents of Sicelo informal settlement say they are disappointed that their living conditions remain poor after the DA promised them a better life in the 2013 local government elections.

The community of Sicelo has been waiting for service delivery for years. Picture: Manyane Manyane

Many people in the area live in abject poverty amid a high unemployment rate. Basic services such as electricity and sanitation remain a distant dream. Sewage spilling into the streets, illegal power connections, and lack of refuse collection are the order of the day. Residents also have to share communal taps and mobile toilets.

“I grew up here, and people in this area have been voting since 1994. After voting the DA in 2016, we thought there would be changes and the area would be developed. I even decided that I am not going to vote because it doesn’t change anything. We vote for these people, and after that, they forget about us,” said Siphamandla Kondlo.

“We voted for the DA because the ANC could not change this situation. We were even forced to connect electricity illegally because government is not doing anything for us. And this illegal electricity is dangerous to everyone here,” the 32-year-old man said, also lamenting the lack of jobs.

“If you can blow a whistle right now and say you want to employ two people you, would be overwhelmed because they will come in numbers. That’s how bad unemployment is in this area. There are groups of young people sitting on the street corners and gambling everywhere you go.”

Meanwhile, Meshack Tsetsengwa said they had been protesting against these conditions for years.

“Even last year, we protested two times for land and electricity. There’s actually nothing in this area. There have been many government officials here telling us their plans to change the situation, but nothing has happened,” he said.

Alice Thamae said they are often told development is coming, but nothing materialises.

“This has been their song. We were also promised stands (sites). People decided to connect illegal electricity because government lied to us, and they have been lying for years. At some point, we were also told that we would be moved out of this area. We have accepted that nothing will be done in this area,” she said.

Another community member Joyce Tlou said: "Life in this area is miserable. I don’t see why I should vote. I should just stay at home because we are enriching these people with our votes.”

About 6.3 kilometres from Sicelo is Meyerton, where roads are in good condition, and recreational facilities like parks are well maintained. Unlike in Sicelo, the community of Meyerton is satisfied with services delivered by the DA-run municipality.

“I am happy to live in this town. It is much better than Vereeniging, where I used to live. I am no longer going there because it is dirty, and the roads are riddled with potholes," Susan Scheepers said.

“Although the municipality still needs to improve on other things, the town is clean. Even the rates are affordable.”

Another Meyerton resident, Johan Steenkamp, only had good things to say about the municipality. “You can see this municipality is under the DA, and they are working. If you want an ANC municipality, then you can go to Vereeniging.”

Sarah Louw said she was equally happy with her neighbourhood and its administration.

“You can see there are no potholes. Everything is clean. We don’t struggle with water and electricity. You can even see that everyone walking in town is safe,” she said.

Midvaal spokesperson Simon Ratlhagane did not respond to media enquiries on the service delivery divide.

Meanwhile, governance expert and political analyst Sandile Swana said people should not assume that any party neglected informal settlements, pointing out that there was a culture of non-compliance by the affected communities amid failure by the provincial government to relocate people.

"Remember that by 2017, MEC for Human Settlements Paul Mashatile promised Sicelo residents new RDP houses (in a different location) away from the unsuitable soil conditions on which the informal settlement is based," Swana said.

"Remember that every informal settlement must set up its own governance structure that agrees to implement municipal by-laws which govern it and the services rendered to it beginning with basic health and safety."

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