OPINION | Voters have had it with out-of-touch, missing-in-action politicians writes Mandy Wiener

Water supply is a fundamental issue to voters and yet it seems as if the ANC-led coalition government in Johannesburg just doesn’t care. As election strategies go, it is pretty bizarre.

There is a deep disconnect between politicians and the electorate. 

The issues electioneering politicians are prioritising are so far detached from the reality of citizens of the country that they appear increasingly out of touch. 

At 702’s town hall in Ga-Rankuwa this week, I listened as residents took turns at the microphone as the community centre became heated both literally and figuratively. The Gauteng Premier Panyaza Lesufi and Tshwane Mayor Cilliers Brink addressed residents’ concerns. 

We speak about elections ad nauseam and ventilate issues every single day, but it is only when you sit in a town hall like this that you really appreciate what the electorate is facing. 

Poor service delivery, unemployment, a police station without power, potholed roads, high crime rates, water quality… There is a deep dissatisfaction amongst South Africans.

EWN reporter Alpha Ramushwana brought us the story of 29-year-old Thabiso Tefu who gave up seeking formal employment after several years of trying to get a job and he now voluntarily fills potholes with rocks and sand. Motorists give him tips and he collects these in a jar. 

“I do this to help people. It also helps me feed my family. I don’t want to end up like my peers who are in jail now because of crime,” he told Alpha. 

You can’t help but feel that this election is really going to be critical as voters are frustrated with elitist politicians who place party before state and are more intent on their career survival than truly being servant leaders. 

The Joburg water crisis is a case in point. 

For eleven days, some residents of the economic hub of the country have been without water because of the knock-on effects of issues at the Eikenhof pump station. It emerged on Wednesday that a closed valve that just hadn’t been opened had contributed to delays in restoring supply. 

For the first chunk of the outage, Mayor Kabelo Gwamanda was AWOL. Only on Tuesday this week did he get involved in crisis talks and admit that lessons could be learnt from what had happened. 

At the Ga-Rankuwa town hall, I stopped Premier Lesufi as he was sitting in his luxury vehicle, his six-car convoy about to depart, to ask him for comment on the Joburg water crisis. No, he can’t comment on that, that’s a matter for the Joburg mayor, he told me. 

Ironic, considering Lesufi is often quick to rush and comment and intervene in any crisis for political expediency, to create the impression that action is being taken. 

Water supply is a fundamental issue to voters and yet it seems as if the ANC-led coalition government in Joburg just doesn’t care. As election strategies go, it is pretty bizarre. 

In a survey published last week, the Brenthurst Foundation looks at what the key issues are in the upcoming elections. 

It found that unemployment and corruption are the biggest problems facing South Africa, followed by load shedding and then weak leadership and crime. 

The survey shows that people are more concerned about corruption than they were and that worries about weak leadership have overtaken those over crime. 

Considering the ANC has blatantly disregarded its ‘renewal’ rhetoric to include members named in the State Capture report on their candidate list, you would think they are oblivious to the real concerns of voters. 

But fear not! Just in time to sway the citizens, the Presidency appears to have finally decided to implement lifestyle audits for Ministers and Deputy Ministers, six years after the President first promised them in the 2018 SONA. 

The voter turnout at the polls over the past decade has been steeply declining. If we are going to combat voter apathy and general discontent, it means politicians are going to have to resonate with voters and convince them they can truly and directly address their concerns and meet their expectations. 

They should start by creating jobs for people like Thabiso Tefu, taking a strong stand against corruption in their ranks and being transparent, honest, and accountable when it comes to a crisis such as the one currently playing out in Joburg. 

By Mandy Wiener – Talk Radio 702 host and Presenter of The Midday Report

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