I am from the rural areas of Bushbuckridge in Mpumalanga and as South Africans in the cities I started living in when I left home for my studies celebrate the various freedoms that came with our democracy nearly two decades ago, I feel areas such as the one I come from have very little to celebrate. People from villages in the area get tricked every four to five years during national and municipal elections as representatives of various political parties would promise the poor a better life, a life where they also don’t have to live in fear because there would be better policing. They often believe these promises that are seldom or never met.
As South Africans from the rest of the country celebrate the milestone of 19 years since our parents voted for the first time, my province of Mpumalanga has announced that two municipalities have been placed under administration. This is the same province that has failed to produce favourable Matric results despite all the tweaking and changes that happen which are done so it is much easier for high school pupils to pass.
We get the lowest pass rate in the country so no, the government’s reduction of the pass mark to just thirty percent hasn't helped us. It has also become common to hear news reports about Mpumalanga pupils who get caught trying to or having cheated in their national exams and a lot of the time it would become clear that it would be with the help of adults that would have passed their Matric. There is no freedom in the knowledge that someone in authority would leak a paper to high school kids just so they can pass a subject they wouldn't have studied properly for. In fact, that is a trap.
When our municipality was placed under administration I also heard that we owe millions of Rands to the water board for a resource that is a basic human right. This basic human right has caused problems in other parts of my province as recently while watching The Cutting Edge, an investigative programme on SABC 1, I realised that like us, some other people in my province have no running water in their homes. This has resulted to them fetching water from communal taps and where there are no communal taps, they would drink what has been found to be toxic water from the ground which has caused diseases in some people. Authorities ignore their pleas, deny there is a problem and that any disease is caused by contaminated water they are forced to drink because of negligence by some municipalities.
Whenever I am home in Bushbuckridge, I know that I must always return to basics of pushing a wheelbarrow for 5km to fetch water from a communal tap. This is something people of my rural village don’t complain about anymore, it is what people do and have always done. To them, things just are what they are and they feel powerless.
I can almost guarantee that if Bushbuckridge was in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal or perhaps the Western Cape, some of these problems would have been fixed. The media would probably assist in getting them fixed. Daily in the press we read stories of the plight of people in the outskirts of Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town but it is not daily that we would read about specific rural areas. We read about the rural areas as if it’s some generic place with problems that are the same and thus would have a common solution.
Our freedom hasn't even granted the people of the rural areas access to the media as journalists don’t go there. They sit in their comfortable homes and drive out to stories that are easy to reach. If they came to areas such as my home town, Bushbuckridge, then maybe they would have a better understanding of what people here go through on a daily basis. Thereafter they would have a clearer picture of what they are asking about when they talk of the rural areas when questioning authorities sitting in the Union Buildings in Pretoria or in parliament in Cape Town. While the media is free to publish any story it has investigated, the impoverished are still largely ignored.
In 2013 we read about how a black man is now on par with the white man, often we see results in seats of power. But those results don’t reach areas like Bushbuckridge where there are black people who also suffered under apartheid. They suffer today still, nineteen years on.