Zuma: visible government curbs violent protests

Friday, March 19, 2010

Kempton Park - President Jacob Zuma says unless government officials are visible in communities where service delivery challenges are reported, violent protests will continue to plague South Africa's townships.

"Officials can write reports but those reports no matter how beautifully written they are, they cannot give you a real picture of what is happening on the ground," Zuma said.

He was addressing scores of people of Madelakufa, an impoverished informal settlement in Tembisa, outside Kempton Park.

Madelakufa is the same area Zuma visited in November last year where he expressed shock at the plight of the people there. At the time residents complained about lack of electricity, proper housing, running water and sanitation facilities.

"I have decided to come back here today because I have since consulted with all the structures of government that can be able to help you.

"I am able to see for myself that there is progress that is being made," Zuma said, referring to the toilets that have been built in the area since his previous visit.

As he arrived with his presidential entourage, an estimated 2000 strong crowd burst into song and dance while some rushed for space in the marquee where the president was to speak.

Zuma decided to rope in the Minister of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Sicelo Shiceka, Labour Minister Membathisi Mdladlana, Public Works Minister Geoff Doidge and Energy Minister Dipuo Peters, among others, to assist in speeding up the most pressing of service delivery needs.

"As you can see, I have brought you government, last time I was alone because I did not want anyone next to me... I wanted to see everything for myself first," he said to loud cheers.

It appeared from Zuma's interaction with some of the locals that lack of proper housing was what many people struggled with in the informal settlement.

But there were good news as Zuma was able to report that the Gauteng provincial government had identified a piece of land where about 470 houses will be built for the people of Madelakufa.

The project is expected to be completed by April next year when another that will deliver a further 570 houses will begin.

One of those to benefit from the project, Boniswa Ralanti, 43, was overjoyed as the country's first citizen paid her a visit in her tiny shack.

"Thank you president, I don't know what to say, I really need a house; my children are old now and we really can not cope in this one room," a tearful Ralani said. She has never owned a proper house since arriving in Johannesburg from the Eastern Cape decades ago.

"So it's clear that you do not have to fight to make government deliver for you," Zuma said in clear reference to the recent violent service delivery protests in some parts of the country.

Zuma said, however, people were allowed to raise grievances if they felt that their needs were not being properly addressed.

"I urge officials including councilors to respond to service delivery protests because people need to know that their problems are being attended to".

The perception that government was only good at making promises without delivery needed to end.

He said Performance Monitoring and Evaluation Minister Collins Chabane, who was also present during the visit, will ensure that non-performers in government are dealt with. "This is the minister that will ensure that all lazy officials are removed so that working people can be available to help you," said Zuma.