The poor are waging a spirited revolt in various communities throughout the country demanding delivery of basic services. This has been going on for years and it has become a daily struggle. The poor are asking government to deliver adequate housing, water, sanitation and electricity and they are entitled to these basic socio-economic rights. These rights, including food security for all, are fundamental and a basis for life and its sustenance. No one wants to go without food and shelter. Beside this obvious natural need to eat and have a shelter, government is put by the people to serve the people.
For 15 years the poor have been told to be patient and they obliged because they believed a democratic government will not let them down. On the other hand, a few have been turned millionaires and billionaires overnight through personal business enrichment schemes called ‘Black Economic Empowerment’ without any business credentials let alone aptitude. The only qualifying criterion for candidature to these schemes is membership of the ruling party or alternatively, simply bowing to whatever dictates of the ruling party.
Ironically, government has no problem funding these obnoxious schemes and buying multi-billion dollar weapons but has no money to feed and house the poor. The poor must forever wait in the wings. At the same time you have elected public representatives pre-occupied by compulsive corruption and squandering of public resources. Of course junior politicians in local government will be used as scapegoat for lack of delivery by their seniors whereas in fact the failure of local government is the failure of the whole government. There is corruption, incompetence, laziness, mediocrity and lack of willingness to serve, in local government as there is in provincial and central government.
Then we hear megaphone criticism of the ‘violence’ poor people use to register their demands but we are not told of the violence of depriving the poor of basic needs of life. The poor have nothing but their voices and bodies to employ in any struggle for daily survival. For now the political system has failed the masses and they must intensify the fight until their demands are met. Unfortunately and most importantly, a government which does not control its resources and economic activities can never have enough resources to provide for the basic needs of the people.
It is about time people demand change of the electoral and governance system and introduce constituency based electoral system across board. Power must go to the people – where it belongs. The people must have the power to elect and recall public representatives any time. The poor should not suffer for five years. The poor must recall any public representative who does not deliver, and then bi-elections held to replace the outgoing representative. This will eliminate careerism and opportunism among self styled public representatives who are in fact dodgy characters in pursuit of personal power, wealth, glory and the prestige that goes with it.
The party list must be replaced by the people’s list. People must nominate and deploy representatives of their choice and not be dictated to by political parties. For a party activist to be on the list, such a servant of the people, must be nominated by the people from a constituency where they live. This will compel political parties to work within and with the people all the time and not just a few days before elections. Not only that, but elected public representatives must continue to serve the interest of the public or else they must be removed. Politicians must simply become public servants. They must serve the people selflessly. The only condition to occupy and retain position of public representation must be service and more service to the people.