Life in the Time of Cholera – the SA reality as ANC governance falls behind 19th Century civilisation - Biznews

The cholera outbreak in Hammanskraal, which has killed 21 people so far, is not only tragic but an ominous sign of the continuing disintegration of the South African state. Under the ANC, one after another of the nation’s essential services has fallen to pieces.

In March, the Department of Health dismissed claims that Gauteng’s tap water is unsafe to drink, with spokesperson Motalatale Modiba even going as far as calling circulating social media messages warning residents not to drink the water “false and malicious”. At the same time, the Department released a media statement in which it declared the month of March as National Water Month, signing the statement off with, “Water is Life, Sanitation is Dignity”. By that stage, there had been five confirmed cases of cholera and one death from a disease which civilisation was capable of eradicating over 100 years ago. It gets worse. In this article by Daily Friend columnist Andrew Kenny, he details the brazen claim by Secretary General Fikile Mbalula last week that South Africa’s power crisis was the ANC’s only failure. Not only did the country’s deplorable excuse for a ruling party critically endanger its citizens by running the country into the ground and neglecting its basic duty to maintain the safety and sanitisation of Gauteng’s tap water – the only source of water for masses of residents in the area – it failed to install chlorine dispensers at community water sources, which would have prevented any further illness and death. Mbalula’s brazen remark, and this failure by the ANC to provide Gauteng’s residents with a solution so simple and affordable, is beyond reproach. This article first appeared on the Daily Friend. – Nadya Swart

Andrew Kenny

The cholera outbreak in Hammanskraal, which has killed 21 people so far, is not only tragic but an ominous sign of the continuing disintegration of the South African state. Under the ANC, one after another of the nation’s essential services has fallen to pieces.

In his appalling interview on Hard Talk on the BBC last week, Fikile Mbalula, Secretary General of the ANC, said that electricity was the “one single failure” of 29 years of ANC rule. The interviewer, Stephen Sackur, did not even pick him up on this preposterous claim. Electricity is but one of a multitude of failures which is ruining our country, and by no means the most important one. Failures in education, crime prevention, and unemployment are all more important than our collapsing electricity supply, although none of them have the sudden, spectacular effects of load-shedding. Perhaps most important of all is the ANC’s failure to maintain two of the greatest needs of civilisation: clean water and good sanitation.

Life expectancy for the world doubled from 30 years in 1900 to 60 years in 2000. Perhaps the most important factor in this spectacular improvement was water and sanitation. Before that, infectious diseases, especially in young children, cut short the lives of half the infants born. As the Industrial Revolution proceeded, and more and more people crowded together into cities, sanitation became worse and infectious diseases rampaged through fetid inner slums. London, in the 19th Century, led the world in filth and illness. The River Thames became an open sewer.

Decimated the population
Cholera, then not understood, decimated the population. Because people associated disease with foul smells, it was thought at first that cholera was caused by inhaling stinking air, which they called “miasma”. In 1849, John Snow, a physician, proposed that cholera was not air-borne but water-borne and in 1854, using careful statistics, he was able to prove this and even trace a particular cholera outbreak to a contaminated water pump. In 1865, Joseph Bazalgette, one of humanity’s great benefactors, completed the total rebuilding and expansion of the London sewers. Chlorine was added to drinking water in England (in Lincoln) in 1903. And that was that. Cholera was eliminated in England.

This was over a hundred years ago. We now understand cholera very well, know exactly how to prevent it (quite simply) and also how to treat its victims (also quite simply). Ivo Vegter explained it all clearly in his Friday column in the Daily Friend (where he also dealt firmly with Mbalula’s blustering, deceitful interview). Cholera is a bacterial disease transmitted by ingestion, not inhalation. Ingestion is sometimes by contaminated food but more often by contaminated water. Cholera causes severe diarrhoea with watery stool and dehydration and leads to vomiting, irregular heart rates and tiredness. It can cause death. It can be prevented completely by treating water with chlorine, which kills the bacterium. But it is better that the water be clean in the first place.

Cholera can be treated simply by giving the patient water with suitable salts, cheap and plentifully available, either by drinking or by injection. It is an utter disgrace that anyone in the world today should die of cholera. In South Africa this month, over twenty people did so at Hammanskraal, in the richest province in South Africa, purely as a result of misgovernance.

The ANC’s manifold failures – in education, crime prevention, health, water and sanitation, railways, ports, municipalities, railways, and employment – are caused not only by corruption, incompetence, neglect and arrogance but also by deliberate policy. The ANC has deliberately forced upon the nation policies it knows are ruinous and to which it would never dream of submitting itself. Consider somewhat similar failures in another country far away a century ago.

One of the world’s worst epidemics of malaria happened in Russia in 1922, spreading as far north as Archangel on the Arctic Circle. Nowadays, it would have been blamed on climate change (in the freezing cold!), but actually, it was caused by the collapse of Russian health services following the brutal disruption of the communist revolution and the civil war. (Malaria decimated the European population during the horrible cold of the 16th and 17th Centuries and probably killed Cromwell.) But an even worse loss of life, this time by starvation, was caused by deliberate communist policy.

In 1921, Russia under Lenin suffered a famine caused by “socialising agriculture” (banning the market in food and collectivising the farms). Lenin, fearing the famine would bring down his revolution, hastily reversed this policy and allowed a degree of market farming and private enterprise. Immediately food became more plentiful, and the famine ended. But in 1929, having consolidated the revolution by terror and bureaucracy, Stalin then ordered the total collectivisation of the farms, knowing full well that it would cause starvation as it had done before. The resulting famine killed about 10 million people, including people living on the richest arable land in the world, in Ukraine (now under attack from another Russian despot). Stalin regarded his collectivisation as a success because it “achieved socialism”.

Forced upon the nation
In South Africa, the ANC has forced upon the nation policies such as racial affirmative action, employment equity, transformation, cadre deployment and BEE, which it knows full well are ruinous. It knows that these policies have ruined education for the great mass of our people. ANC ministers would not dream of sending their own children to schools with affirmative action teachers, 92% of whom were black (in line with the Employment Equity Act, which the ANC has recently strengthened). BEE procurement has helped to ruin Eskom, but the ANC keeps pushing it harder and harder. From what we know about the tragedy at Hammanskraal and here, some of the facts seem as muddy as the water the local people have to drink; these ANC policies are largely responsible for the loss of life.

Hammanskraal is a large peri-urban municipality in the north of Gauteng. It falls under the Tshwane local authority, which was ruled by the ANC until 2016 when a DA-led coalition took over. It has a long history of failing water supply and sanitation. In 2008, sewage from the Rooiwal Waste Water Treatment Plant (RWWT) in the Tshwane municipality began flowing into the Apies River. Nothing much seems to have been done about it then. In 2011, the ANC closed the Temba Water Purification Plant. In 2019, Thembeka Mphefu, a Tshwane official and the divisional head of supply chain management, awarded a tender worth R295 million to upgrade the RWWT to a consortium of three companies, all owned by a businessman, Edwin Sodi, described as “an ANC benefactor”. Had Mr Sodi completed the work as he promised, the water at Hammanskraal would this month have been safe to drink, and 21 people would not have died. He did not do so and did not have the competence to do so.

According to a tweet by Koketso Resane on 23 May 2023, published in The Citizen, “Instead of using the money to upgrade the plant and ensure Hammanskraal residents get clean water, Edwin bought additional luxury cars, paid ANC salaries, and bagged Kefilwe Mabote as his side.” (Please google “Kefilwe Mabota images”.) In other words, he acted in full compliance with BEE procurement, which President Ramaphosa has recently confirmed he supports. I notice that Comrade Fikile Mbalula blames the DA for the Hammanskraal tragedy.

Terrifying thought
The terrifying thought is that what happened at Hammanskraal could easily happen in municipalities all over South Africa, and in fact, similar failures of water and sanitation have already happened in many of them. Many more poor people are going to die unless the ANC changes course. But will it?

Will the ANC reverse its ruinous racial policies and allow the poor people in the municipalities to receive the best services at the lowest prices from the most competent and honest suppliers and contractors, regardless of their race or political connections? Will it consider the provision of clean water and good sanitation to all the people to be more important than racial ideology and favours to rich cronies? I don’t think so. Just listen to Fikile Mbalula in the Hard Talk interview, and you won’t think so, either. Stalin thought that achieving socialism was more important than feeding starving people. The ANC thinks that racial ideology and enrichment of the few are more important than the welfare of the many.

Andrew Kenny is a writer, an engineer and a classical liberal.

This article was first published on the Daily Friend