Solidarity announces government's top-10 blunders for 2010
Merely pulling up socks not good enough for 2011
The trade union Solidarity today announced government's top-10 blunders that had caused an uproar in 2010. Government's handling of the national water crisis was regarded as the most serious blunder of 2010. The union said damage control of the harm already inflicted on the country's scarce water resources would demand the most dedicated action in 2011.
Solidarity emphasised the gravity of the crisis, saying that extensive and permanent damage had already been done and that the prevention of further damage would require an all-out effort.
Solidarity spokesperson Ilze Nieuwoudt said government had blundered in various aspects, causing permanent harm in many instances. "The water crisis, misappropriation of funds, efforts to gag the media and the ongoing fiascos at semi-government institutions caused extreme alarm in 2010," Nieuwoudt explained. Government's handling of youth matters, road maintenance, South Africa's military readiness, crime, the widespread housing scandal and labour problems were also very prominent in 2010, she added.
Solidarity appealed to government to focus on these issues in 2011 and to act in the interest of South Africans. "Corruption is present in many of these blunders. Until government takes committed steps to stamp out corruption at all levels, the same blunders will probably be repeated in 2011. Government must do more in 2011 than merely pulling up its socks. In many cases only a fresh approach would remedy this year's mistakes."
Solidarity stressed its intention to closely watch government's actions in 2011 regarding these 10 blunders in particular, and said it would not hesitate to take a stand in the interests of South Africans, a sound economy and the general well-being of the country.
Government's top-10 blunders in 2010 are more fully set out below.
1. Water crisis
Government's denial of the worsening water problems in South Africa in 2010 must rate as one of its more serious blunders.
In the same year that Trevor Manuel, minister in the presidency, shrugged off as "ridiculous" predictions that toxic mine water could seep out at various locations in Gauteng before long, government for the first time ever acknowledged its failure to maintain municipal sewerage plants all over the country.
The latter issue is a matter of grave concern. According to government's so-called Green Drop report for 2009, only 32 of the 449 plants tested managed Green Drop status. (Only 449 of the country's 852 plants were tested.) This means that millions of litres of insufficiently purified water daily find its way into our rivers.
In a country afflicted by a scarcity of water, a fast-growing population and ageing infrastructure, our water predicament has now become a ticking timebomb.
One of the most expensive government blunders without a doubt was the 17th World Youth Festival presented by the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) in December.
The festival cost almost R69 million, of which R29 million was funded by the treasury. In view of the current unemployment rate of 35,8% among South Africans in the age group 15 to 34 (according to the narrow definition of unemployment), such extravagance flies right in the face of our youth's aspirations.
However, a critical 2010 blunder with more far-reaching consequences flows from government's continuing inability to solve our nation's education woes. The matric pass rate for 2009 was 60,6%. Owing to the prolonged teachers' strike in particular, the 2010 figure could hardly be an improvement on last year. Still failing to prepare our youth for the labour market, the education system generally produces merely mediocre school-leavers.
Here are just some of this year's shocking blunders regarding state spending:
- The disclosure in November that the bodyguards of the leader of the ANC Youth League, Julius Malema, had already cost the taxpayer more than R880 000.
- In October it was divulged that R3,7 million had been transferred from the South African Police Service (SAPS) budget to pay for the residence of police chief General Bheki Cele.
- Some R130 million was spent by government and several semi-government institutions on tickets for various matches in the Soccer World Cup Tournament.
- In November the auditor-general revealed numerous government departments' "irregular" spending of approximately R2,3 billion (i.e. spending incurred outside stipulated guidelines).
4. Potholes keep government stumbling
While South African roads face a construction backlog of almost R100 billion, motorists are spending some R50 billion annually to have pothole-related damage to their vehicles repaired.
The maintenance of our secondary roads in particular has become a veritable nightmare thanks to the fact that, to a large extent, road maintenance has simply stopped.
The Automobile Association of South Africa (AA) issued a warning in October that our roads were fast becoming irreparable. The AA conducted a study in 2008 by measuring road conditions on a scale of zero (worst condition) to 100 (best condition), according to the so-called visible-condition index (VCI). The index dropped to 46 in 2008, as against 65 in 1998.
Minister of transport, S'bu Ndebele, admitted in October that bad roads increase the risk of accidents.
5. Media tribunal
It would seem that a transparent society, investigative journalism and media freedom are to make way for more corruption and deeper murkiness. This scenario, among others, awaits South Africa if the proposed media tribunal and the Protection of Information Bill were to be adopted.
Already experts are describing eventual state control of the media as a disaster. The proposed legislation is aimed at, among others, empowering the authorities to classify information and to prosecute contravening opinionmakers such as journalists and editors.
It is highly ironical that the ruling party who clamoured so vociferously for the freedom of speech during apartheid should now be trying to convince South Africans that a free press was indeed a threat to democracy!
Disturbing rumours were again doing the rounds this year that the defence force was nowhere near fighting trim.
The low morale in the SANDF is alleged to be very serious; in fact, in November an MP warned that it could even endanger state security. The publishing of a comprehensive report on the combat status of the SANDF is awaited with apprehension.
7. Semi-government institutions
Many semi-government institutions are continuing their negative tendencies.
Some of these institutions are hampered by thousands of vacancies, weakening their service delivery. In May 2010 Transnet had some 4 500 vacancies, Eskom had 1 200, while SAA lacked 600 workers. Solidarity cited affirmative action as a probable contributing factor behind the vacancies, with service delivery its ultimate victim.
Government's target of creating five million new jobs in the next decade is commendable; however, if this initiative was not left to the private sector, it cannot succeed.
The failure of the Essa project (Employment Services South Africa) seems inevitable.
Essa is a centralised database which is supposed to match jobseekers and employers. Since its inception four years ago, only 2% of the more than 1,2 million jobseekers have been placed successfully. Close to 170 000 jobseekers were registered in 2007/08, of whom only 3% were successful. More than 420 000 people were registered in 2008/09 - the lucky ones came to only 3,5%. And a meagre 1% of the more than 630 000 people registered in 2009/10 are now employed.
9. Housing scandal
The housing corruption involving some 2 000 government officials is one of the most disgraceful public sins of 2010.
Minister of human settlements, Tokyo Sexwale, said in August this year that syndicates selling and leasing government housing were to be investigated. Numerous government officials, notably in Gauteng, North West and KwaZulu-Natal, are allegedly benefiting underhand from these deals.
The authorities' housing promises pose another fiasco. Sexwale announced in April this year that the housing backlog even exceeded the backlog in 1994: the figure has swelled from 1,5 million in 1994 to 2,1 million at present. Meanwhile the need for housing is growing daily; the number of informal settlements has already reached the 2 700-mark, of which at least 70 are inhabited by white people in shanty towns.
10. Crime and law enforcement
The authorities are still failing to crush South Africa's internationally feared criminals, despite a growing police force.
According to data released by SAPS in September, 16 849 murders, 68 332 sex-related crimes and 64 670 muggings (robberies with violence) were recorded as at 31 March 2010 when the 2009/10 financial year ended. Residential and business burglaries increased by 1,9% and 4,4% respectively.
Experts are moreover concerned that a growing percentage of crime victims no longer even bother to report the misdeeds they have suffered. And in March it was revealed that one out of three police stations lacked suitable victim support facilities.
Successful policing by police members with a sense of duty is further hindered by affirmative action as well as poor law enforcement and ill-considered strategic planning.
Statement issued by Ilze Nieuwoudt, Solidarity spokesperson, December 29 2010
Afrikaans: Solidariteit kondig regering se top-10-flaters vir 2010 aan
Afrikaans: Solidariteit kondig regering se top-10-flaters vir 2010 aan