In 2000, a cholera outbreak around Ngwelezane in rural KZN killed nearly 200 people and infected more than 80 000 others. Why the outbreak? The government had recently terminated a 17-year-long, apartheid-era supply of free water. Those too poor to buy their water found themselves forced to gather it from wherever they could find it, storm drains, dirty rivers, stagnant pools…. hence the cholera.and
(Then) Wits academic Patrick Bond is just one of the critics blaming our government for adopting neoliberal economic policies that put profit before people. Government is turning basic services like water and electricity into commodities, and then selling them off to the highest bidder. From there, it’s a quick step to insist upon a 100% cost recovery model from ‘customers’, regardless of how poor these individuals may be. No money, no water.
What prompted our government to take such a step? For a lot of reasons, but not least of which the fact that the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) have made no bones about the fact that they will be plenty cheesed off if SA doesn’t go this route. In the words of writer-activist Ashwin Desai, ‘our transition to democracy… was trumped by the transition to neoliberalism’.
I will never forget Nelson Mandela saying, when it had become clear that the ANC had won the election in 1994, that one thing was not negotiable -- the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP). And within a year it had been negotiated away.