Two months ago I moved from Durban to Cape Town. For the 5 years prior to my move, I had been a ward councillor in the eThekwini Municipality.
In eThekwini, I had elicited much anger from the mayor and his colleagues highlighting the extent of slums built by the City (called ‘transit camps’) with broken or non-existent sanitation. I had pointed out that very little and very often no sanitation is provided to many of the informal settlements in the eThekwini. I had campaigned in vain to see the delivery of these basic services fundamental to human dignity.
Compared with the non-existent delivery of sanitation in parts eThekwini and in other town and cities, the near total delivery of sanitation in Cape Town stands alone in South Africa. I had noted the ‘poo protests’ before my arrival in Cape Town, but it was only once I arrived here that I understood what was actually going on: these are the first major protests against effective service delivery.
The mere fact that the protesters throw containers onto the road or empty them in public places means that toilets exist for the containers to be removed from. If the protests were truly about the delivery of sanitation to the poor, then why are the protesters not targeting governments where delivery has failed and people are still required to ablute in circumstances considered inhumane?
This campaign gives us a glimpse into the worst of our politics. The activists are protesting the effective delivery of a government they fiercely dislike, and in doing so vandalise working sanitation services in their attempts to disrupt the government and economy of the City. Their motivation is not to secure better service delivery, but instead to frustrate and cost the City and its people as much as possible while protesting effective delivery by their political opponents.
Their ruse is paper thin, and every toilet they disable through their action, every ounce of job-creating productivity they disrupt, impacts negatively on the very people they purport to stand up for – and the people know it. It is thus no wonder that their party has been forced to act against them.