5 times communities took over municipal duties in South Africa

Harrismith Water Heroes hard at work cleaning out the sand filters at Wilge Purification Plant. (2019)

Municipalities across South Africa are on the brink of collapsing. Political parties are making promises and counting on votes for the upcoming local government elections. But many communities were gatvol of empty promises.The Daily Vox took a look at a few times the people rose up and “governed” themselves. 

Community restores water supply 

Harrismith is a large town in the Free State province which falls under the Maluti-a-Phofung Municipality. The Harrismith Water Heroes community action group was established in January 2019 after taps ran dry. The municipality was unable to restore the water services because it had already been placed under administration. The administrator couldn’t act immediately, and so the” water heroes” were born. A group of residents led by Sam Twala mobilised in a community hall, and sought out to fix the problem themselves. They gathered municipal officials to assess the infrastructure. They installed a pump that helped move water from the dam to the town’s pipes. In under four days. they restored water to the town. 

The group has since been tackling all sorts of service delivery challenges. They maintain roads, clean the town and assist with sewerage problems. 

Farmers fix roads

Farmers in the Free state have spent over R6 million to repair roads in the province. Many farmers battle with vehicle repairs caused by badly maintained roads. This impacts getting their produce to various markets. Communities have also suffered with numerous school bus breakdowns. Farmers in the Thabo Mofutsanyana district municipality have coughed up R1 million in road repairs. They say they are forced to act quickly as repairs are more expensive if left to deteriorate. The Free State Agriculture (FSA) group said the government lacked capacity and capability to do their duties. They said their numerous appeals to the local government did not yield any results. 

The Free State MEC (member of the executive council) for Police, Roads and Transport

Sam Mashinini, was fired in early October. Farmers welcomed his axing, saying Mashinini failed them. 

Community takes control of water and sanitation 

In December 2020 the North West High court gave the Kgetlengrivier concerned residents (KCR) control of the area’s sewage works. The case involved an urgent application by residents against the Kgetlengrivier Local municipality. The court found the municipality for failing to provide adequate water and preventing polluting two rivers with untreated sewage. Judge Gura ordered the municipal manager to stop the sewage discharge,or face three months imprisonment.  The KCR took over clearing the sewage successfully. 

Earlier this year the court ruled again to restore the function to the municipality. The same problems started occurring shortly after. Local residents are now contesting the #LGE2021. There are five independent candidates who have vowed to take back control of the water works. 

Residents clean up their town 

Komani (formerly known as Queentown) is a town in the Eastern Cape province. It falls under the Enoch Mgijima Municipality. It was recently embroiled in a controversial R15-million sports ground. The facility was unveiled earlier this month with a dry field and minimal infrastructure.

Residents in Komani are fighting back by taking charge of challenges they face. Many communities have adopted a motto vuka uzenzele (get up and do it yourself) to better their lives. Simon Mphele and Simamnkele Vanqa (from Clean Komani) said  they are finding their own solutions by cleaning their town

Residents take action 

People of the Musina Municipality have risen up against constant water outages and high electricity tariffs in their town. The local municipality is in the Limpopo province. The Musina To The Front community group handed over a memorandum to mayor Mihloti Muhlope recently. They said the outages affected their livelihoods and quality of life. They are asking for tangible solutions with quick results. 


Makhanda and the future of service delivery protests in SA

Feature Image