Politicising service delivery in South Africa: a reflection on the history, reality and fiction of Bekkersdal, 1949-2015
Van Eeden, Elize S.
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The history of the Bekkersdal Township on the Far West Rand, located in the Westonaria Municipal region, as it is known since 2015, dates back to the post-World War II years when the township was formally established in 1949. After 65 years of existence, and inclusive of an extended informal surrounding township, the still expanding informal settlements currently challenge local infrastructural initiatives to their limits. News reports of dissatisfaction about service delivery and a politicising of perceived frustrations regarding service delivery – like those at Bekkersdal – appear to ignore the history of the region all too easily. As a consequence, it allows for expressing reality only halfway, which may sometimes cause it to be transformed into fiction of which a nagging narrative repeats itself continually, yet with no progress or turn in sight. By means of archival research, open interviews and a thorough reflection on newspaper reports, the authors aim to reflect on the history of Bekkersdal against the background of this statement. Aspects of the service delivery history of Bekkersdal will be highlighted and related to the political focus, politics and a politicising of the day. Bekkersdal’s history will also be touched upon against the backdrop of the gold mining developments in the region in the heyday of apartheid. It will also be pointed out that, even in 2015, the region is still very much in a colonial mode as far as land occupation and limitations in local government empowerment within a central government authority are concerned.