Soweto Concerned Residents launches the R5.00 Service Campaign
Thursday 22 January 2009 by Nic
We are poor and we can’t afford to pay for services (Zonke R5.00)
The Soweto Concerned Residents (SCR) held a community mass meeting in Orlando East at the A.M.E church to discuss the 2009 national elections and the state of the poor working class in the country. The meeting is normally attended by elderly pensioners and unemployed residents who are receiving various state support grants, many of whom were in the forefront of the struggle against apartheid. The meeting took a resolution to go and pay R5.00 zonke for basic services to their ward councillor, Ruby Mathang, on the 21st January 2009 at his office. This is a defiance campaign against market related charges for basic services for the poor and unemployed.
The church was packed to capacity and it was clear that the elderly residents want change in their lives as they were promised a better life for all in 1994 by the first democratically elected president, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela. Many of the residents voted for the African National Congress (ANC) because the liberation movement promised them free electricity, water, sanitation, education, housing and jobs for all under the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP). All these were not fulfilled because the ANC listened to the prescription of the Washington consensus and decided to adopt a neo-liberal macro-economic policy, GEAR. This push made it clear that the delivery of basic services would be market driven and that cuts in subsidies to municipalities would force them to recover costs from users. Municipal language quickly changed and now poor working class communities are seen as so many customers for municipal entities to maximize profits.
But in September last year it became clear to even neoliberal disciples that the market cannot solve the problems of non- or slow service delivery by the ANC government as the system of global capitalism came across the first debris of its worst crash since the Great Depression. Under the present system, the global financial crisis means that the hopes of poor elders of receiving free basic services are doomed. The ANC recognised that the rent boycotts were not just a tactic in the resistance to apartheid but a popular demand for a life better than this. That is why when they took over in 1994, the ANC promised free basic services for all and laid down a Bill of Rights that entails the delivery of free basic services.
Now, poor elderly citizens are given less than a R1000 pension grant by the government and must register as indigent people in order to receive free basic services that are not adequate for their families. Those who are unemployed are not receiving any state support and see their ’access’ to water and electricity closing. So the meeting took a resolution that it will no longer listen to the empty promises that politicians are dusting off in this election season and will campaign for a flat rate for basic services. The poor residents demand that they pay R5.00 zonke since they can’t afford the escalating market related prices.
The first action of the R5.00 zonke campaign will be a march by the residents of Orlando to their ward councillor Ruby Mathang to deliver their R5.00 to show that they are willing to pay what they can afford but not for the municipality to make profits from the poor.