Mahikeng: 'A poor and miserable town'

Thato Molosankwe blames the deterioration of the area on nepotism, greed and what he said was the looting of historical buildings to erase the legacy of the former Bophuthatswana.

Potholes in Mahikeng. Picture: Abigail Javier/Eyewitness News

MAHIKENG – A Mahikeng social activist said corruption had eaten away at the dignity of the once flourishing capital city of the North West.

Thato Molosankwe blames the deterioration of the area on nepotism, greed and what he said was the looting of historical buildings to erase the legacy of the former Bophuthatswana.

Mahikeng was once the home to a booming economy – riding on the back of tourism, arts, education, and world-class infrastructure.

“When you enter Mahikeng, you don’t see the capital city, you just see a poor town… a miserable town,” he said.

Molosankwe has earned friends and foes alike with his videos on social media.

On these platforms, he laments the state of buildings inherited by the present-day government from the former Bophuthatswana regime under Lucas Mangope – which includes the arts council.

The council's building was torched during a 2018 protest calling for the axing of former premier Supra Mahumapelo.

“We had bop recording studios, we had Mmabatho International Airport, we had Mmabanas, we had North West Arts Council. The ANC government didn't have to do anything.”

Another building is the Unibo Chapel, which until a few weeks ago was home to vagrants and pigeons.

After seeing Molosankwe’s video about the facility’s state, resident and member of the Mahikeng rate payers’ association Lumka M’belle came to the rescue.

“They are going to want to use these buildings as soon as we’ve cleaned them up for their conferences and stuff like that. Even the present government uses this building for funerals, weddings, and stuff like that. So, we are cleaning them up and giving them back to them.”

M’belle said while they had very little support, she wished for the residents of Mahikeng to band together and restore the dignity of the place.

The governing ANC said it instructed Premier Bushy Maape to investigate the supposed neglect and alleged unprocedural sale of government buildings.

GALLERY: The state of Mahikeng: Once a capital of opportunity, now in ruin

MAHIKENG WATER CRISIS 'RECEIVING ATTENTION'

Water and sanitation Deputy Minister David Mahlobo has assured North West residents that the water shortages that have plagued parts of the province are receiving urgent attention.

On Monday, Mahlobo was in Mahikeng where taps in the capital and other areas ran dry partly because of a strike by employees at water utility Sedibeng Water over unpaid salaries.

He said while long-term solutions to address the water crisis were necessary, there was an interim plan.

“The financial position of our institutions is not good. They were unable to do certain things, those matters are being attended to and water is being returned. We know that certain parts of Mahikeng have started having water."

M’belle said the quality of the water in Mahikeng was appalling.

“If you see the kind of water that I get from my taps... This morning I couldn’t take a bath because of the fact that the water [is so bad], you can’t even use it to wash your pigs. That is the type of water that comes out of our taps. It’s the time for electioneering and stuff like that, they could be repairing those things but they couldn’t be bothered.”

Both Maape and Mahlobo apologised to residents who have been subjected to the below-standard water.

WATCH: The state of Mahikeng: Once the capital of opportunity, now in ruin

'VOTE FOR WHAT?'

Lonely Park resident Nondumiso Kubtasi said she was disappointed by the African National Congress (ANC), but opposition parties had not convinced her that they were capable of turning the situation in Mahikeng around.

“The ANC has failed us. So, how can we have confidence and faith that other political parties are going to serve us?”

Her sentiments were echoed by M’belle, who invests her time and energy in restoring the Unibo Chapel, which has been left in a derelict state.

“Look around you. Tell me which opposition party has ever come across this building? Did they ever stop to say they can help? No. Even the present government is asking for our votes. We are going towards 1 November; I don’t think Mahikeng residents have got the appetite to vote. Vote for what?”

As it campaigns to cling on to power, the ANC in the North West said it acknowledged that more could be done to improve the delivery of basic services in the capital city of Mahikeng and other unstable municipalities.

In the 2016 local government election, the ANC won 61% of the vote in the Mahikeng municipality – but opposition parties say corruption and factional battles in the governing party had stalled the provision of crucial services in several municipalities.

Eyewitness News spoke to opposition parties in the province, who say the state of Mahikeng and many other towns in the province was due to the ANC using government to fight its own internal battles.

The Democratic Alliance's Freddy Sonakile said the governing party’s fights had led to the collapse of municipal services.

“In the midst of all these factional battles, service delivery does not take place and when it does, it suits a certain portion. You have a municipal administration that has been politicised to an extent that they take sides politically and forget that they are there to serve”

The Economic Freedom Fighter’s Keatlaretse Nko agrees.

He said there was a leadership and skills vacuum in Mahikeng and blamed factionalism, nepotism, and cadre deployment.

“Shame the executive mayor [Betty] Diakanyo, she doesn’t even know what she is doing – she doesn’t have what it takes to be a mayor. It is an issue of cadre deployment and a faction that has won a conference.”

Meanwhile, the United Christian Democratic Party’s Othibile Seleke said Lenah Miga failed during her tenure as Mafikeng mayor but the ANC promoted her to MEC.

"Lenah Miga was the mayor of Mafikeng Local Municipality – so when you shift her from the mayoral position and give her the MEC of Cogta – you are not doing anything.”

But the ANC’s Kenny Morolong said they acknowledged the party’s mistakes throughout North West municipalities.
Speaking mainly to the water crisis, he said if given a chance to govern again, the ANC would hold its members to account.

“As part of our renewal project, the ANC has vowed that those who are voted into office will have to be held accountable and where they govern, they must govern with integrity.”

They may have their differences, but all parties agree that residents should exercise their right to vote for representatives of their choice come 1 November.

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