My aim here is to specify different rationales behind the burning of public property that we have witnessed in the past few years during service delivery protests, bring out their implications and explore their plausibility or lack thereof.
One reason for thoroughly exploring this social phenomenon of violent destruction of public infrastructure is to obtain clarity about what precisely is at stake in the debate as we call on communities across the province to make a pledge to ensure that all public schools, clinics, libraries and other community facilities are protected from vandalism and litter.
As the custodian of an immovable asset portfolio of more than R31-billion, which includes 152 health facilities and 2 249 schools, the Gauteng department of infrastructure development (GPDID) faces the unenviable task of ensuring value for money in both the use and custodianship of these assets.
We have recently partnered with the MRM in the I Care We Care campaign, which is our attempt at raising awareness and changing the behaviour of our communities so that we all realise the importance of preserving the people’s property. Together with the MRM, we will drive this campaign by visiting communities, by engaging and opening up conversations, by going door-to-door to encourage our people to sign a pledge to care for, preserve and protect public property as the common heritage of all our people. The MRM has dedicated the past 13 years since its inception to popularising the movement, engaging civil society and participating in campaigns with various government departments, municipalities and religious organisations.
The MRM will play a significant role in co-ordinating community and religious structures that support the campaign, organising meetings and dialogues for and with religious leaders to present the campaign, and taking pledges in support of the campaign in order to fight the scourge of violent destruction of public property. I urge all South Africans to join this by signing the pledge at icarewecare.co.za
The campaign was launched in July 2016 in Bekkersdal, Westonaria. The choice of Bekkersdal as the launch city for the I Care We Care campaign by Gauteng premier David Makhura was necessitated by the violent protests that took place a year earlier which saw the destruction of, among others, a community hall, council offices, a gymnasium and a multipurpose centre.
The destruction was a serious setback to the Bekkersdal Urban Renewal Programme to uplift social and economic circumstances in the area. The somehow unintended outcome of the Bekkersdal protests is that the damage to these properties has resulted in a great inconvenience for members of the community, especially the frail and the elderly. For residents to access government departments such as home affairs, health and the SA Social Security Agency, which were right on their doorstep, they now have to travel 10km to Randfontein.
For us as the government of Gauteng, every day, week or month that goes by without infrastructure being destroyed is a good one for us and the people of our province. The GPDID has quantified the damages to public property in monetary terms. Money that could have been used for people, for development and upliftment is wasted on repairing the damage.
We as the people of Gauteng need to take a stand and defend the property that all of us are entitled to. Together government and communities should stand against unlawful acts ... We know that apartheid denied us as a people ownership of assets, we know public property is still treated as elitist and that it is seen as a bargaining tool when people are angry with the delivery of services by the government.
To conclude, as I have stated before, we also know that violent fanatics who target public buildings and facilities occupy a small space in our society; the majority of our people love peace and stability. Through this campaign, we know they will join us in isolating the destructive elements among us and reclaim our schools, clinics and libraries so that the future generations can benefit from these facilities.