The current situation in the Enoch Mgijima Municipality is what happens when a government loses sight of its core responsibility. It’s what happens when people enter politics for the wrong reason – when rewarding loyal cadres becomes more important than providing crucial services to the community. This is a municipality that has all but imploded and can no longer ensure that the needs of the citizens are met.
Enoch Mgijima municipality is so poorly run that it had to sell 44 of its vehicles last year just to pay its debt following a court ruling, and has since been placed under administration. According to the Auditor General Report last year, it incurred more than R1 billion in irregular, unauthorised, fruitless and wasteful expenditure.
Streets aren’t cleaned and basic services in some areas are almost non-existent. Power cuts and water interruptions happen all the time, and these cuts can go on for days. If it weren’t for some NGOs and churches stepping in and assisting with water trucks, many people here would have no access to water at all.
The dam that supplies Queenstown with water is less than 30% full thanks to the crippling province-wide drought. But the real tragedy is that there is a dam nearby that has sufficient water to ease the pressure, but this water can’t be pumped here because of faulty infrastructure. And I am told that the parts needed to fix it have to be manufactured in Germany.
The electricity situation is no better either. This town owes Eskom almost R200 million, and thanks to a combination of poor maintenance and disorganised billing, power interruptions are a regular occurrence. Queenstown cannot afford this. There are many big companies here that employ thousands of people. If they find it impossible to keep their doors open, they will simply go elsewhere, leaving all those people without jobs. With unemployment already among the highest in the country, and investment drying up, this would be a disaster.
This is a municipality on the edge of total collapse, and this situation didn’t unfold overnight. Any government that was committed to the people it served, and that appointed qualified people to positions of leadership, would have anticipated this disaster and put measures in place to deal with it. But instead of a competent local government, the people of Queenstown have a government made up of unqualified cadres deployed to their positions only because they are loyal to the party.
What has happened to this town is symptomatic of a failed province. This municipality was placed under administration over a year ago and has been run by remote control from Bisho since then, but even that has made no difference. It is still a place where the residents receive no service, where there are no jobs and where people have no hope.
You, the people of Queenstown, deserve better than this. You don’t deserve to be held hostage by the patronage politics of the ANC. You deserve a government that is not only committed to serving you, but also able to turn this municipality around. There is only one way to ensure this, and that is by appointing only the most qualified, fit-for-purpose individuals to positions in government.
The establishment of such a capable state is the cornerstone of the DA’s offer to voters. We don’t trade in patronage politics and we don’t tolerate corruption. If you want to serve in a DA government, you have to do so for the right reasons. You have to be 100% committed to the people who elected you, you have to be qualified to do the job, and you have to have zero tolerance for any form of corruption or patronage.
In less than two years, you will have the opportunity to choose such a government here in Queenstown. You will have the chance to look at everything that has happened in this municipality under the ANC and to weigh this up against the DA’s track record of clean governance and service delivery in dozens of municipalities and metros across the country. And when you then cast your vote, you can finally hire a government with your vote that will work for you and help build one South Africa for all.
Queenstown, along with the rest of South Africa, needs change, and we need it urgently.