The Free State Human Rights Commission (HRC) has expressed concern about the incidents of service delivery protests, such as recently experienced at Sasolburg’s Zamdela location, which left at least four residents dead. The commission met members of the public, government and business representatives in Bloemfontein last week, to get a better picture of factors that impede service delivery in the province and to craft a way forward.
“The rationale for the function was to bring stakeholders together to discuss about the issues that pertain to service delivery, especially basic services in the province,” acting HRC provincial manager, Masego Phetlhu told Courant. However, she says the meeting was not aimed at “pointing fingers and blaming others” but rather “at finding collaborative effort aimed at improving service delivery.” The HRC function comes as this Chapter 9 institution prepares to release in February, the findings of investigations conducted in 2012 into water problems at seven of the Free State’s municipalities.
Senior HRC legal officer Buang Jones declined to name the municipalities involved, but speculation is rife that they include those which have experienced continuous water problems in recent times. “We’ve concluded our investigations and finalised the reports, which are due to be considered by our HRC commissioners. At this stage, I’m not at liberty to comment on those reports, because they still have to be ratified by the commissioners,” says Jones. Community workers from various wards of the Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality (MMM), which includes Botshabelo and Thaba Nchu, told the meeting about the problems they face in efforts to provide communities with information and improve service delivery. A Thaba Nchu representative told delegates that the perception was rife that poor rural communities were not receiving adequate service delivery and were feeling left out as they fall under traditional tribal authorities.
Meanwhile, a MMM official says, by estimates, his municipality needs R1.5 billion to address problems of ageing infrastructure to enable it to provide basic and effective water and sanitation services. However, he says only about R15-million was available, while the lack of appropriate skills was also an area of concern.