On the 31st July 2017 opulence and servitude came face to face in Hoedspruit in the Maruleng municipality during a march against 5% fare increase by The Great North Transport. The leader of Bushbuckridge Residents Association Mr. Delta Mokoena graced the momentous occasion. As always he joined the marchers to lead by example through action and voice for the voiceless. The normally quiet small town of Hoedpsruit was painted sky blue with the party’s identity with the workers in different clothing since they are not provided with protective clothing for their work. It is this contrast that brought opulence and servitude face to face.
During the National Liberation Struggle millions of South Africans had one thing in common with their leaders and that was humanity. Over twenty (20) years since the 1994 political breakthrough such a common denominator has changed drastically. Great North Transport is a transport company subsidized by government and this has been the norm since the system was introduced during the apartheid days. In a democratic dispensation with checks and balances the most vulnerable members of society continue to submit their grievances through marches and protests as if they didn’t elect their own to occupy positions of authority and responsibility.
The march was organized mainly to hand over a memorandum to the Department of Transport Limpopo and it was copied to The Mayor of Maruleng municipality and Great North Transport management. That the farm workers and commuters resorted to submitting their grievances to the political side of the spectrum is a true reflection of how leaders have become complacent on their comfortable seats. It is intensely disturbing and openly embarrassing that in this era authorities are still unable to put the plight of the poor and downtrodden at the top of their agendas. In a progressive governance system those that exercise oversight function would have been alive to the issues that continue to bedevil farm workers and commuters alike given the meager salaries they get from their toil.
The marchers assembled at the Hoespruit Bus Rank and proceeded to the municipal offices where the memorandum was to be handed over to the relevant authorities. The memorandum raised the following challenges for consideration by the authorities;
- Overloading of buses which causes accidents e.g. one bus carries 50 standing passengers
- That speed humps should be erected at Bavaria Bus Terminal as motorists drive at high speed causing deaths of commuters.
- That Great North Transport should stop the implementation of the 5% fare increase as it didn’t consult with commuters.
- That the municipality should erect shelters and toilets at Bavaria Bus Terminal for protection of commuters during rainy periods and their privacy.
- That Great North Transport management should re-schedule tickets to expire on weekdays and not weekends as this robs commuters.
- That the Maruleng Municipality should engage with the Department of Health to build a hospital.
- That Great North Transport should add extra buses to alleviate the dangerous overloading and that the bus representative system should be stopped as it is not serving the interests of commuters.
The authorities were given fourteen (14) working days to respond to the demands. The memorandum was received by Ms Rakgoale J, the Acting Mayor of Maruleng municipality and witnessed by Ms Hanli du Plessis HOD: Department of Transport Limpopo. The two have promised that they will attend to the demands within the stipulated time frame.
Looking at the above demands it is crystal clear that leaders have no interest in the welfare of the people. That they are unable to do risk assessment and implement measures to avoid dangerous situations is an indication that they don’t care about the very people who elected them. The farming environment is a very challenging sector as people normally work in the bush and on trees. The possibilities of them being attacked by wild animals or bitten by deadly snakes are very high yet they have to travel several kilometers to access adequate medical attention. Many of the workers commute every day and the reason is that farmers don’t provide accommodation and the meager salaries virtually go to transport. The municipality is also unable to do inspections to determine what kinds of interventions are needed to better the welfare of the workers and commuters in terms of legislation.
It is surprising that the municipality is not using its available land to build low cost houses to accommodate even its own employees. This failure to plan for the development of crucial infrastructure mainly for housing purposes is a true reflection of a leadership in crisis. This situation therefore continues to retain Hoedspruit’s laager status. More baffling is the fact that the municipality is selling the very land that was supposed to be used to transform this small town.
In essence the hundreds of farm workers and commuters don’t have government as their base for protection against super exploitation. The law enforcement agencies are accessory to this exploitation as they allow the buses to overload under their watch. It is therefore hoped that the authorities will use the grievances in the memorandum to review all aspects of the welfare of the farm workers and the commuters alike. Perhaps BRA took leave from Frantz Fanon’s correctness when he wrote: the more the people understand, the more watchful they become, and the more they come to realize that finally everything depends on them and their salvation lies in their own cohesion, in the true understanding of their interests and in knowing their enemies. The people come to understand that wealth is not the fruit of labour but the result of organized, protected robbery” (page 154, The Wretched of the Earth, Frantz Fanon). Perhaps at last something good will come out of this important action by the affected people.
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Politics & Governance
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