SOUTH AFRICA

Basic services in South African township “were better during apartheid”

 Protesters have spilled onto the streets of the South African township of Bekkersdal. Police are on high alert, after violent protests erupted on Wednesday and Thursday against the municipality’s inability to deliver basic services.

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Image sent by Molefi kotsi, taken Wednesday.

 

Protesters have spilled onto the streets of the South African township of Bekkersdal. Police are on high alert after violent protests erupted on Wednesday and Thursday against the municipality’s inability to deliver basic services.

 

Amateur footage appears to show residents blocking roads and setting makeshift barricades alight, leaving parts of the town choked in black smoke. Municipal buildings were also reportedly vandalised in a violent backlash against the town's local government.

 

But it’s not the first time residents have taken to the streets. Bekkersdal is located a few dozen kilometres west of the booming economic hub of Johannesburg; a city that enjoys levels of prosperity people from this restive township can only dream of. For weeks, residents have been demonstrating against the local government’s failure to provide basic services. One of our observers – who lives in the town – tells FRANCE 24 that a “lack of basic water and sanitation, inadequate housing, poor school conditions, and a high unemployment rate” are to blame, despite the fact that Bekkersdal is surrounded by rich gold mines.

 

Image sent by Molefi kotsi, taken Wednesday.

 

Protesters say they want the town’s councillors to resign from their posts. But local authorities argue that high levels of unemployment and a growing population is making it difficult for the already cash-strapped municipality to provide basic services.

 

"It’s like a living hell now because nothing is under control"

Monageng Mpati, is from Bekkersdal and has been taking part in protests since they began.

 

 

We’ve been protesting since the 15th of September. I was there today. People were protesting and it got ugly. It’s a no-go area, people were clashing. It’s like a living hell because now nothing is under control; the children aren’t even going to school and its exam time.

 

Our sewer system has been blocked for a long time; it’s now overflowing in the township. There are many health hazards here on the streets. That’s why we want the municipality to address these issues. They made all these promises to the community but they’re not carrying them out. That’s why there are these protests today. The needs of the community are not being taken seriously. For so many years now we haven’t had proper waste services. There’s sewage and rubble on the streets; it’s like nothing is in order.

 

Image sent by Molefi kotsi, taken Wednesday.

 

The unemployment is very bad. I know plenty of guys unemployed, especially youths. This is one of the issues surrounding the protests. Standards of education are low, and now they’re worse because children cannot go to school because of the protests. They just loiter around in the townships.

 

"In some areas, there is one water tap and one toilet shared between twenty households"

 

Westonaria is surrounded by lots of gold mines, but the money from these mines is not being enjoyed by the community at large. Those mines don’t benefit the people of Westonaria as much as they should. A lot of the workers are migrant workers; not from the surrounding townships.

 

I’ve lived in the township all of my life. It was a bit better before, it was even better during apartheid. But now there are many more people living here than before, there are lots more migrant workers, and there are not enough services for them. The government hasn’t kept up. When I was growing up the services were better. You didn’t see garbage on the streets. Now people aren’t satisfied with the services they receive.

 

Image sent by Molefi kotsi, taken Wednesday.

 

Services were not so poor back then. Now it’s different. Water in some parts of the area is not accessible. You cannot live in conditions like that, without even water. People should be living in proper conditions. In some areas, there is one water tap and one toilet shared between twenty households. That’s been going on for about 15 to 18 years.

 

Things must change, because the conditions that we are living in are totally unacceptable. And the situation is getting out of control.

 

 

 

 

Post written with Andrew Hilliar.