To many South Africans – the phrase “service delivery” has become synonymous with “non-delivery”. It is this service delivery which should be the core focus of the upcoming municipal elections.
“Service delivery” inequality
Legislation such as the 1913 Land Act, the 1923 Urban Areas Act and more notably, the Group Areas Act promulgated in 1950, can be viewed as fundamental in establishing service delivery inequality. These pieces of legislation ultimately influenced the spatial distribution of districts and more importantly, of economic wealth.
This has undoubtedly shaped the range of possibilities and class positions available to an individual. Cape Town is a prime example of the detrimental effects of spatial distribution, as the white minority still reside in mostly affluent areas near the city centre (business hub).
Closer to home, it is glaringly obvious that Cape Town is a city divided along service delivery lines.
To accommodate this, members of the Indian and Coloured communities, were (under Apartheid rule) forcibly removed from these spaces, to less- resourced and less-serviced areas, further away from the city centre. At the same time, the black population was banished to shack-filled townships on the periphery of the city.
Recent legislation, such as the Municipal System Act (2000), has preserved this historical inequality by prioritising first-order service delivery for high income suburbs – and minimum mandated levels for poorer areas.
The role of local government
The reason behind economic disparities and unequal access to various essential resources is undeniably, firmly anchored in the historical legacies of colonialism and Apartheid.
But recently, local levels of government have been (rightfully) held accountable as a result of their inefficiency and inability to provide essential services to poorer communities within the “Rainbow Nation”.
According to Section 152 of the South African Constitution of 1996, the local sphere of government is seen as the initiator of primary service delivery.
It is unfortunate that across most of the country, local government’s lack of execution and high levels of unreliability in providing these bare essentials, coupled with political manipulation, councillor interference and corruption, has greatly neglected and endangered millions of citizens across the nation.
Closer to home, it is glaringly obvious that Cape Town is a city divided along service delivery lines. This is evident in the resources allocated and the efforts put into bettering the lives of the ‘haves” rather than the “have-nots”.
The current municipal elections bring with it new parties, independent candidates and subsequently people from the communities who have shown to have sincere commitment to uplifting their wards.
Strandfontein Pavillion is a sad, neglected mess on the beautiful Cape Town shoreline. It recently opened after its third case of sewage spill since the end of last year. Had these sewage spills occurred at Sea Point Pavillion, the response and repair time would have been much swifter.
- Parks and recreation: Delft vs Durbanville
- Safety and security provided by local law enforcement: Nyanga vs Camps Bay.
- Sports facilities: Mitchells Plain vs Constantia
- The sewerage running through roads: Hanover Park vs Sea Point
These are but just a few examples which showcase that public resources are mostly prioritised for regions within the upper, wealthier class of society, disregarding the needs of those at the opposite end of the spectrum.
I invite any politician at any level to allow me to physically show them these disparities, should they dispute it.
Time for new players?
In the upcoming municipal elections residents get to choose the councillor they think will best make a positive difference in their lives and their ward.
There has been lots of fear –based politicking. In the Western Cape, the DA makes no bones about it being us (the DA) or them(the ANC).
Looking at how well the DA performs at the polls (predominantly in Coloured communities) it would be correct in deducing that this strategy has worked.
But the current municipal elections bring with it new parties, independent candidates and subsequently people from the communities who have shown to have sincere commitment to uplifting their wards.
Voting in politics should not be based on the “rather the devil you know, than the devil you don’t” adage.
Rather, it should be based on: “Who is going to work hardest to ensure that I get the service delivery I deserve?”
About the Author
Mogammad Davids is a graduate in English and Political Science at the University of the Western Cape and currently pursuing a B.A. Hons in Political Science,. He is a young, ambitious researcher focused on finding solutions to the many challenges ordinary South Africans face on a daily basis.
His interests are focused on race and class dynamics within contemporary South Africa, with special interest in the manner in which these phenomena are perpetuated within the economic, social as well as political realms of society.