The rat crisis in South Africa has finally gotten the attention of the African National Congress (ANC) ruling party. Rats have caused havoc for years in South Africa and attempts to control the outbreaks have not improved living conditions. This week, the Johannesburg Municipality has set aside R2,5 million to fight the rat problem.
It is not only rats that roam the streets of cities and informal townships, as cockroaches and other annoying insects thrive in the filth. The giant rats run rampant through sewer systems and gutters, and are found in work and home environments. The explosion of rats reflects the efficiency of civil servants around the entire country.
The rat crisis is not a new problem for South Africa. As the years roll by, the rats get bigger, more frightening and more unsightly. Rats larger than cats have been caught in several townships, and municipalities around all of South Africa have to deal not only with the rat problem, but also be wary of infections and other possible outbreaks of health risks.
There has been too little and sometimes no attention over the past twenty years to this growing problem, and the failing service deliveries have contributed to the rise of the infested rats having free reign around South Africa. The rats thrive in the filthy township conditions and feast on uncollected rubbish. The ANC government needs to attend to the cause of the rat crisis by stopping workers from striking, collecting refuse on a regular basis and maintaining the infrastructure. During his first term as president, Jacob Zuma boasted that there was a plan to alleviate unemployment and create jobs. Zuma could hire people to clean up the cities, get rid of the rats, improve service deliveries and keep his promise.
Alexandra Township, bordering the northern suburbs of Johannesburg, has battled the war against rats for years. The ANC Council tried to get rid of the plague by using barn owls after more normal ways had failed utterly. Many residents consider barn owls an evil omen, but the council members have implemented programs to educate the residents about the importance of combating the rat crisis.
During 2011 in two separate incidents, two young children were killed by rats. In Khayelitsha, Cape Town, a three-year-old child was killed in her sleep after being attacked by rats. Soweto Township south of Johannesburg experienced the wrath of rats when a young child was bitten to death by giant rats. The teenage mother of the victim said she would never forget the repulsion of seeing the child’s eyes ripped out, and bite marks over her cheeks and forehead.
The people of South Africa have chosen to ignore a good governance structure and focus more on the ANC government internal systems. The culture of ongoing internal conflict, cadre deployment, corruption and chaos within the ANC sparks more interest than the plague of rats. Ultimately, it is the people who suffer the consequences while expecting the government to provide basic services. The people fail to receive basic deliveries from the ANC government, who is more concerned with internal conflict than governing the country more effectively. The slow reaction to eliminate the rat crisis in South Africa provides more evidence that the ANC government is at war within itself and unable to deliver essential services effectively to South African people.
The rat crisis in South Africa has gotten the attention of Nonceba Molwele, a member of the mayoral committee for health. Molwele said that 28,400 rats were caught in Alexandra Township since the barn owl project inception in 2012. Molwele said the council remained confident that the rat plague of South Africa will be beaten and said residents need to support the initiative by keeping their environment clean.
Opinion by Laura Oneale