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The law that failed

The whole world saw just how much the people in the Vaal hated the councillors. Three were killed and most of them lost their houses and businesses. Many are still in hiding.

People say they hate the councillors because they are “greedy sharks” ­ and because they are “puppets” of the government.

In the last election, very few people voted for the councillors. For example 33 thousand adult people live in Evaton – and only 535 voted.

What does all this mean? It means that the government’s system of town councils in the township is a failure. And so it also means that the govern­ment’s new law, The Black Local Authorities Act, is also a failure. Learn and Teach had a look at this new law:

The government passed The Black Local Authorities Act last year. The government called this a new deal. They said Africans will have a bigger say in the running of the townships. But this deal was not so new – the old community councillors didn’t get more powers. They only got more work to do. .

The old community councils are no more. We now have “town and village” councils. The old community councils did things like collecting rent and chasing “squatters” out of backyard shacks.

Under the new law, the councils must do things that the administration boards always did – like managing the sewerage, electricity and water.

So the councils have more to do BUT THEY DON’T HAVE MORE MONEY TO DO IT WITH. All the money must come from the people in the townships. The government will not use taxes they get from the rich people and companies for the townships.

A few months ago one newspaper wrote: “For many years the government has starved the townships of money. The rule is simple: Africans must pay for their own houses and services. If they can’t afford it, they must go and live in the homelands.”

The same paper wrote: “It is the ‘workers and their families in the townships who will have to pay for the councils. Workers, who can now hardly pay for rent, transport and food, will have to pay more for everything.

“Even if the councils push up rents, service charges, electricity levies, liquor prices and dog taxes, they will still not solve their many problems. They will try by squeezing the workers for more and more.

“That’s why the Lekoa town council had to put up rents – and that’s why the people were so angry.

The government says the councils will give people more say in the running of their townships. They say townships will have more power over their own affairs.

But this is not true. The councils won’t have much power. Look at what the government minister can do to the councils:

  1. He can set up or close down councils…

  2. He can give the councils extra powers or take them away.

  3. If nobody votes in the town council elections, then he can just put anybody into the council.

  4. If he doesn’t like the work of a council, then he can tell the council what to do. Or the govern­ment can do the work of the council.

Many people say the government doesn’t really want to give people a say in the way their townships run.

They say the government wants the councils to do all the dirty work in the townships – like charging more for rents. Then the people will blame the councils for all the problems in the townships – and not the government itself.

“People can see what the government is trying to do”, says a man from the Vaal Civic Association. “We can see that the government is using the councils to make us pay for things in our townships. We even pay the salaries of the councillors. So who can blame the people for their anger?”


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