Johannesburg - Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Sicelo Shiceka's "declaration of war" against white South Africans shows his lack of understanding of the problems in the country's municipalities, the National Taxpayers' Union's North West branch said on Monday.
"Playing the racial card when 'the country is burning' will not improve your 'war zones' while all the people of this nation suffer," NTU North West chair Carin Visser wrote in an open letter to Shiceka.
Last week, Shiceka charged that white ratepayer associations had created "a parallel government" and were undermining municipalities’ ability to deliver services.
"They take the money and instead of paying municipalities they put it in a trust account.
"That undermines the ability of municipalities to deliver services."
Shiceka's office was not available on Monday to comment on the letter.
"We are being blamed for creating 'parallel structures of governance' next to completely dysfunctional structures. The comparison is ridiculous. Do you want us to accept raw sewage as a way of life?" asked Visser.
Ratepayers' associations had been formed because service delivery was in a chaotic state.
They had used the money they collected to repair and maintain essential services for the benefit of the whole community while "mayors and municipal managers were nowhere to be seen".
Visser said the government had been told about the problems, but had ignored them, neither acknowledging nor replying to letters and failing to attend meetings requested by ratepayers' associations.
'A revolt is rising'
"We are experiencing a government with insufficient capacity and integrity," she wrote. "We have to endure a government without skills and competence in all the departments."
Visser said the government was not aware of the magnitude of conflict in the country.
"Within the deteriorating conditions of the towns and townships a revolt is rising which cannot be ignored."
Protests over poor service delivery were spreading, becoming more violent and more frequent. "If the seething anger is not contained, violent protests could become a permanent way of life in our towns."
"Sending in the police force to control the revolt is not solving the problem, but only creating aggression. Address the reason for the revolt," Visser wrote, identifying fraud and corruption as major problems.
The race card
It was not wise to threaten legal action against people who were trying to improve their situation.
"...You will be creating a backlash from all the ordinary men and women in the street which you will regret in the days to come," she warned.
In a separate letter posted on the internet, its author Francois Roux asked whether Shiceka had considered that whites' actions might have "just a little bit to do with mismanagement of funds".
Shiceka had no problem overlooking destruction of property during violent protests over service delivery, to make illegal connections or because it was sub-standard.
"But heaven forbid, let just 280 white ratepayers withhold their rates, exactly because they are unhappy about this whole situation, then it's a huge problem."
Roux doubted that violent protests over services would ever stop with an attitude such as Shiceka's. "You are getting what you deserve," he said.
Democratic Alliance co-operative governance spokesperson Willem Doman last week labelled Shiceka's raising of the issue as "just another example of the (ANC) using the race card to deflect attention away from the real concerns of ordinary South Africans.
"If the ANC is serious about dealing with service delivery protests, then the best thing they could do is start to deliver services," he said.
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