South Africa

Tap water crisis: Opposition sleeps on the job

tshwane water outage 1

The confirmation that 46% of South Africa’s tap water is not fit for consumption should have made headlines and should have sent the public into a panic state, but most importantly, it should have told everyone that those in power have allowed everything to fall apart.

It gets scarier for provinces like the Northern Cape, one of the poorest in the country, that up to 90% of the tap water in that province is not safe for human consumption.

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And these are man-made problems that add an extra burden on families to have to buy drinking water. A special water tax of sorts.

The reason the uproar was muted in what is essentially an election campaign period is because the opposition parties have allowed themselves to be lulled into slumber mode by the tactic that the ruling party has used somewhat successfully in the past, delaying the announcement of the election date till the last possible moment.

This gives opposition parties, especially the newly created ones that have never even contested an election, the least time to go into campaign mode, creating the feel of an “emergency” or rushed election.

And what do people do in the case of an emergency when they have to choose between a devil they know and the one they don’t?

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They go with the known quantity. When the country is told that the most basic resource can make them sick, a resource as important as oxygen is to life, and the people who allowed that situation to happen is the ruling party, the opposition should rise up and shout at the top of their voices.

This should not be the point at which the opposition is tying up loose ends in getting their election pact together where it is obvious to Tuesday 8 12 December 2023 an outsider that if an election were to be held tomorrow and the opposition won, the country has no idea who the president would be: John Steenhuisen, Herman Mashaba, Julius Malema, Songezo Zibi or Roger Jardine.

There is a reason countries like the United States hold intra-party primary elections to vote on who is going to represent their party in an upcoming election well before an election.

The point is that by the time an election comes up the public is familiar and comfortable with the nominated candidates.

The candidate feels like someone the electorate knows feel they can trust. It is important that people like Jardine and Zibi have entered the fray and put up their hands to lead the country.

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They have solid reputations in the industries they come from, but Joe Public from an obscure village in Limpopo has no idea who Jardine or Zibi are.

And then people are surprised when the party that gives the poorest of the poor drinking water that will make them sick is elected back into power yet again in those places.

That the opposition is still inward-looking less than eight months before what has been billed as South Africa’s most important election serves the ruling party more than it does the opposition.

It is clear that, for ruling party, the most important voters are their ‘traditional’ voters, who treat voting like it is support for a football club: loyal to the club of their youth.

And it is these voters that the opposition should be creating reasonable doubt in their mind by asking them: are you willing to die because you drank microbiologically contaminated water given to you by the political party that you have always voted for?

That reasonable doubt cannot be created by an opposition that is navel-gazing.