Financial Mail - - EDITORIALS -

Joburg is 30cm away from dis­as­ter. Ac­cord­ing to the Sun­day Times, that’s how close il­le­gal min­ers have come to strik­ing the fuel and gas pipe­lines un­der the city — which could in­cin­er­ate ev­ery­thing in a 300m ra­dius. Then there are the parts of the city at risk of col­lapse due to il­le­gal tun­nelling.

Yet the na­tional gov­ern­ment seems to have taken a typ­i­cally lack­adaisi­cal ap­proach. Mayor Her­man Mashaba’s of­fice re­port­edly alerted the de­part­ments of min­eral re­sources and co-op­er­a­tive gover­nance & tra­di­tional af­fairs to the prob­lem more than a year ago, as “the city doesn’t have the com­pe­tence to deal with il­le­gal min­ing ac­tiv­i­ties or the dis­as­ters they [may] cre­ate”.

But by all ac­counts, both de­part­ments sim­ply sat on their hands.

This is gov­ern­ment fail­ure, writ large: lack of eco­nomic op­por­tu­nity means peo­ple feel forced to en­gage in such dan­ger­ous work in the first place; in­ad­e­quate polic­ing of shared re­sources; and fail­ure to re­spond timeously and de­ci­sively to safe­guard lives and prop­erty.

The re­port serves as a timely warn­ing, be­fore any lives are lost or prop­erty is dam­aged. All lev­els of gov­ern­ment have an obli­ga­tion to pro­tect life and in­fra­struc­ture. Fail­ure to do so would amount to gross in­dif­fer­ence to­wards the peo­ple of SA. The pow­der keg un­der the city of Joburg can­not be al­lowed blow up.

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