Politics stinks. These days in South Africa, this is a fairly common view. But, in the North West province in recent months, the expression has had a very real resonance. Because, especially as summer has begun to dawn, the seats of political power in the province have become decidedly smelly. So much so, that various buildings, including the provincial seat at the Garona building in Mahikeng, have had to be evacuated.
The problem comes down to water. Or, rather, the lack of it. Although the provincial government has been warned for many years about the parlous state of water provision, very little, if anything, had been done. Reports, dating to the late 1990s to Botshelo Water, various local government departments and the provincial water affairs department, spelling out the dangers, have all been duly filed without any action being taken.
The result this year has been a number of urgent notices from different directors to the staff of various government offices telling them them to go home by lunch time because of unflushed toilets and a general lack of water. All of which is hardly surprising since the supply infrastructure is dilapidated where it is not broken.
Nobody seems to be taking responsibility. In fact, as a local government employee noted recently, signs of neglect are everywhere to be seen. Take the strategically important Disaneng dam, for example. As a local fisherman noted, he wandered into the Disaneng pumping station below the dam wall last week. It was not only unlocked, it was filthy, covered with spider webs and bird’s nests. Yet this station probably ranks as something of a key point.
Last year, during industrial action by local government workers, water was cut off completely when the workers closed down the valves. Given the current state of the infrastructure, a worker noted wryly that this option may no longer be available in future: there simply will be no water to cut off.