@BBCAfrica

The town where residents took back control

7 days ago, 13:00

By: Pumza Fihlani

Koster lies in the same region as the South Africa's rich platinum mines but nothing about this town speaks of the wealth surrounding it.

"Our lives have gotten worse over the years and it seems like no-one cares," says George Ndlovu, a 65-year-old pensioner from Reagile, a township in Koster.

"Things are so bad that many people here have stopped believing anything will ever change unless we stand up and fight for it."

Kim Medupe's eight-year term as the town's mayor has been characterised by erratic water supply, unreliable electricity, potholed roads. A place where raw sewage flows through some homes.

Residents also accused her of corruption and chased her out of town during violent demonstrations. She denies the allegations she and has not been charged.

It is, sadly, an all-too-common picture of failed municipalities in South Africa.

But the final straw came in Koster when the council seemingly prioritised the tarring of a road to Ms Medupe's four-star guesthouse over one to a clinic.

In a show of anger, a group of residents burnt down the guesthouse and a couple of other properties, including Ms Medupe's home. The townsfolk also targeted a number of councillors.

Community leader Tshabalala Mabe was arrested, along with 30 other residents during those protests and is out on bail.

"The anger has been bubbling under for a long time and the people have had enough. The mayor has failed the people of Koster. We want the mayor to go," he says.

"We have nothing against her personally but she has failed in her job and we are suffering for it."

The municipality of Kgetlengrivier, which includes the towns of Koster, Swartruggens and Derby run by Ms Medupe, was recently declared dysfunctional by the Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs, which said the municipality was incapable of supplying water in contravention of the country's constitution.

In fact the entire North West province has now been placed under administration over allegations of corruption.

While demonstrations over the government's slow delivery of amenities such as water, electricity and proper sanitation, known here as service delivery protests, are commonplace across South Africa, something different happened in Koster off the back of these protests.

The unhappiness in this small town stirred the residents to petition the courts to intervene and it paid off.

A high court granted residents an interim court order to manage the town's key services, including supplying water to its 50,000 inhabitants.

The ratepayers' association also plans to take over other services, including the sewage plant and restoring the roads, but that is some time away.

"We knew that we had to intervene or things would get worse," says Carel van Heerden, the association's chairman.

"Some people, especially in the suburbs, are off the grid - they have solar power and have boreholes - but this is our community and in the end what affects some people, affects everyone."

He tells me they've received enquiries from other communities around South Africa who feel failed by their politicians.

"People should not ...
Read More


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@BBCAfrica

The town where residents took back control

7 days ago, 13:00

By: Pumza Fihlani

Koster lies in the same region as the South Africa's rich platinum mines but nothing about this town speaks of the wealth surrounding it.

"Our lives have gotten worse over the years and it seems like no-one cares," says George Ndlovu, a 65-year-old pensioner from Reagile, a township in Koster.

"Things are so bad that many people here have stopped believing anything will ever change unless we stand up and fight for it."

Kim Medupe's eight-year term as the town's mayor has been characterised by erratic water supply, unreliable electricity, potholed roads. A place where raw sewage flows through some homes.

Residents also accused her of corruption and chased her out of town during violent demonstrations. She denies the allegations she and has not been charged.

It is, sadly, an all-too-common picture of failed municipalities in South Africa.

But the final straw came in Koster when the council seemingly prioritised the tarring of a road to Ms Medupe's four-star guesthouse over one to a clinic.

In a show of anger, a group of residents burnt down the guesthouse and a couple of other properties, including Ms Medupe's home. The townsfolk also targeted a number of councillors.

Community leader Tshabalala Mabe was arrested, along with 30 other residents during those protests and is out on bail.

"The anger has been bubbling under for a long time and the people have had enough. The mayor has failed the people of Koster. We want the mayor to go," he says.

"We have nothing against her personally but she has failed in her job and we are suffering for it."

The municipality of Kgetlengrivier, which includes the towns of Koster, Swartruggens and Derby run by Ms Medupe, was recently declared dysfunctional by the Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs, which said the municipality was incapable of supplying water in contravention of the country's constitution.

In fact the entire North West province has now been placed under administration over allegations of corruption.

While demonstrations over the government's slow delivery of amenities such as water, electricity and proper sanitation, known here as service delivery protests, are commonplace across South Africa, something different happened in Koster off the back of these protests.

The unhappiness in this small town stirred the residents to petition the courts to intervene and it paid off.

A high court granted residents an interim court order to manage the town's key services, including supplying water to its 50,000 inhabitants.

The ratepayers' association also plans to take over other services, including the sewage plant and restoring the roads, but that is some time away.

"We knew that we had to intervene or things would get worse," says Carel van Heerden, the association's chairman.

"Some people, especially in the suburbs, are off the grid - they have solar power and have boreholes - but this is our community and in the end what affects some people, affects everyone."

He tells me they've received enquiries from other communities around South Africa who feel failed by their politicians.

"People should not ...
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