Poor service delivery is unfortunately a sad reality for many South African towns. Instead of moaning, the residents of some small towns are taking the initiative and fixing things themselves.
Although there are pockets where service delivery is good and the streets are kept clean, potholes are repaired and verges cut on a regular basis, sadly there are other areas where the municipality has seemingly ignored its ratepayers and has allowed the rot to set in. Many words come to mind - disgraceful, sad and tragic are all fitting - but should we sit back and accept bad service? Moaning doesn't help and even taking to the streets to highlight problems doesn't always seem to have the desired effect.
We are not for a moment suggesting that people don't have valid gripes and that some municipalities have no clue how to best serve their citizens, but this doesn't mean that we should all sit back, accept our lot so to speak and allow our suburbs to go to wrack and ruin. There are, as a small town in the Eastern Cape has shown us, things we can do to improve our circumstances, and the results are nothing short of incredible.
Like so many of us, the citizens of Boesmansriviermond, a small, picturesque town some 25kms from Port Alfred, were fed up with the lack of service delivery. They had every reason to gripe. The roads were pitted with potholes and the verges were neglected. By the sounds of things the parks were in bad shape and the public ablutions needed attention. This could easily have been a death knell for a town which relies on tourists for its survival and it became clear that something had to be done if it was to survive. The ratepayers stepped in and took matters into their own hands. They not only repaired the potholed streets, they took over the maintenance of the parks, the cemetery and the ablution facilities and by doing so have restored this beautiful little town to its former glory.
It's not the only town whose residents have used their initiative to turn things around. A number of villages along the South Coast have seen the benefits of adopting a proactive, hands-on approach to maintaining their areas. Kerry Massey, a local business owner, together with a team of dedicated locals has been determined to transform the suburb in which they live. She rallied the community and the area now not only boasts a unique garden, complete with a bikini-clad girl, but road signs have been painted, unruly bushes have been trimmed back and the beach has undergone a major clean up. The area also enjoys an active, dedicated neighbourhood watch and the last reported crime incident was in August this year.
“We wanted to put Pumula on the map and although the number of people initially involved was relatively small, we are finding that more and more people want to get involved now that they can see the positive effect something as small as this has had on the suburb in general,” says Massey. “This has been particularly encouraging because although people say they want something to be done, more often than not that's as far as it goes. The garden idea has spread and we've noticed that a number of other villages have adopted the idea and are transforming the entrances to their own neighbourhoods.”
She adds that people need to understand that these sort of initiatives don't only require a committee to oversee the various projects, they also need commitment from people willing to help. “We work closely with our local municipality and although our roads still have potholes, we have been promised that this will be rectified in the near future.”
Be aware that rounding up people to become involved in improving their community isn't always an easy task. That said, as has been shown, the more people see being done, the more likely they are to want to get involved. Yes, you’ll still get the moaners who constantly try to undermine what you do, but you’ll also get those who not only see the benefits of living in a well-maintained area, but who will willingly offer up their time and expertise.
So come on, let's make 2017 the year that South Africans pull together and make their neighbourhoods something to be proud of. Who knows, you may even hike the value of your home in the process.