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Protests in Kimberley – what is going on?

According to News24 Protests recently turned nasty in Kimberley, as residents demanded the removal of the mayor, the municipal manager and its chief financial officer over new electricity tariffs.

According to the Mail and Guardian, this isn’t a new issue. When the mayor, Mangaliso Matika, announced a flat R260 electricity tariff in June this resulted in protests that degenerated to the first round of riots in the middle of July, due to the high levels of poverty suffered by his town.

People just couldn’t afford the tariff.

This isn’t the only issue that Kimberley residents have to protest over regarding municipal services – in June, local newspaper DFA ran an article about a pensioner who got so fed up with the town’s potholes that he started fixing them himself.

A truce was brokered last night by Bheki Cele, Zweli Mkhize  and Derek Hanekom, which is to say it took the heads of three government departments to calm things down.

According to EWN 75 schools were shut down by the protests, and the Mail and Guardian has video footage showing the sort of looting that broke out against the residents’ wishes.

According to the Citizen Matika was subject to a vote of no confidence, but has disputed the lawfulness of the outcome of the vote.

The Northern Cape High Court has ordered him to step aside for three weeks until they continue a case on whether his removal was lawful.

*Update:

According to Imiesa, clean up operations are currently underway in Kimberley following the high court’s decision to oust the mayor.

My Take

One of the major problems in South Africa is that the ANC is way too successful for its own good.

Essentially what we have is one political party that dominates our government from top to bottom – it has national government, it has most of the provincial governments and a fair chunk of the local governments.

And the ANC has long had a policy of cadre deployment – which means that a lot of positions are filled by ANC loyalists.

The thing is, loyalty isn’t the same thing as competence, and in any party, there’s only going to be so many competent people who are also loyal.

The competent people are generally going to end up running the national government, the provinces or the big cities – the smaller towns meanwhile will get the dregs, at least until they’re on fire and need someone to come calm the situation down.

That looks to me to be more or less what is happening on a national scale. Kimberley isn’t unique in service delivery problems, and having those problems erupt into this kind of mess.

We don’t really want our towns run by the people who couldn’t hack it somewhere else, so it might pay us to consider whether we shouldn’t vote for smaller parties in smaller towns.

After all, they have something to prove, that they can actually do it, whereas the ruling party is just treating these places as dumping grounds.

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