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“South Africa’s core infrastructure is collapsing and it will remain so if active citizens and private initiatives do not stand up and make things work themselves”. This was the message of Francois Wilken, President of Free State Agriculture (FSA), to members at the organisation’s annual regional meetings.
The most important example of a private-and-community solution to problems caused by the state is the partnership between Rural Maintenance and the Mafube Business Forum. Rural Maintenance has been active in the Mafube Local Municipality for 11 years. The Mafube Business Forum, consisting of local farmers, businesses and local civil rights organizations has been trying to address the gaps caused by the dysfunctional municipality since 2017.
This initiative resulted in the Mafube municipality’s Eskom account being paid off. On top of the R120 million already invested in the maintenance and upgrading of the Mafube power network, Rural Maintenance paid more than R22 million in royalties to Mafube Local Municipality and R709.4 million to Eskom (on behalf of the municipality) for bulk electricity. Consequently, this is one of the more successful private initiatives in the countryside. It offers a service delivery model that can be pursued everywhere.
It is therefore disappointing that it appears that Eskom and the government want to scuttle this initiative. ESKOM’s argument against the constant reliability of Rural’s power generation capacity is not a legitimate reason. It would have been much better if the state and Eskom Rural Maintenance would assist in getting the necessary battery or generator backup in place rather than stopping the initiative.
“However, given the government’s and state institutions’ record of corruption, we should not be surprised. The people of South Africa’s interests are not counted by the authorities, and we should therefore not expect anything from them”.
Even though citizens are getting discouraged about the breakdown of our electricity infrastructure and other services, we must remember that there is a private solution. It can be implemented if the politicians stand aside.
Therefore, FSA advocates organization and planning for local self-sufficiency at the local level. FSA will continue to support policies and tax concessions to allow it to avoid dependence on an unstable, corrupt or bankrupt government. Unfortunately, the costs of energy storage, such as batteries, as well as backup power generation are very expensive and it will require a united community effort to adequately plan and finance them.