Communities embrace self-reliance over dependence on government

In the face of chronic failing service delivery, South Africans are taking it upon themselves to fix their own communities.

South Africans across the country are starting to realise that the government will always fail to deliver on its promises. Based on this, it is time for every citizen to take initiative and to fix their own communities.


Governments across South Africa are failing to provide communities with the service delivery to which they are entitled. Infrastructure is becoming dilapidated. In early April, for example, the Johannesburg Roads Agency announced that its asphalt plant had run out of tar to fix potholes in the City, leaving the roads in a perilous state for motorists. This is the sort of thing that gnaws on people’s quality of life - even for those who have been able to ignore the gathering political crisis in the country. Responding to this chronic underperformance, communities have switched from begging authorities for attention to ignoring them; they have started to take service delivery initiatives into their own hands.


  1. Panorama Residents Association fixes potholes in Johannesburg.

The members of the Panorama Residents’ Association have given up on expecting the Johannesburg Roads Agency to fix the potholes in streets of their community. Through using tar, this association has managed to fix potholes through their own initiative. So far, over 80 potholes have been identified and fixed, rendering the government’s role in road maintenance redundant. Since implementing this project, according to the Chairperson Dave Baxter, R200 000 has been spent on repairing roads, removing weeds and on cutting grass. Instead of waiting for the government to live up to its responsibilities the community decided to take action and to do it themselves.


  1. Kgetlengrivier residents take over water provision.

In January 2021, the Kgetlengrivier Residents’ Association won a case that it had laid against the community’s municipality. Due to the municipality’s failure to deliver services to its residents, the North West High Court ruled that the association was allowed to take over the provision of water and sewage services. According to the Kgentlengrivier Residents’ Association, the community’s requests for service delivery were ignored for years.  


  1. Solidarity builds its own tertiary education institution in Gauteng.

After collecting monthly donations of R10 from its members, South African trade union Solidarity built a tertiary education institution that plans to conduct its teaching in Afrikaans. The project to build this institution was completed in just under three years, as efforts were made to remove Afrikaans as a medium of instruction at public universities. Solidarity’s new tertiary institution is an example to the rest of the country, encouraging South Africans to invest in creating their own institutions, instead of relying on the government.


  1. Harrismith community gets involved in repairing water infrastructure.

In HarrismithNews reports indicated that buildings were set on fire and that it became a common sight to see police officers trying to disperse angry, protesting crowds. One man, however, is on a mission to show the youth that there are alternative ways to oppose government’s lack of commitment. This alternative way is to be the solution to the government’s inefficiencies. Sam Twala and a group of his friends decided to repair damaged infrastructure in the town. Taking charge, he led a group of 28 people and a number of officials, to assess water infrastructure at a nearby dam. The team managed to have it fixed and the water supply was restored.

These examples suggest that communities have lost their faith in the government’s ability to deal with their problems. A consequence of this, which should be welcomed, is that communities are coming up with innovative solutions to help themselves. What this means is that local governments could lose their significance in the future, as associations take up their competences. South Africans have seen these associations filling in potholes, they have taken control over sewerage services and they even repair damaged water provision infrastructure. Given the realities of South African governance right now, this is to be welcomed.


Image source available here.