March 24, 2017

Finally, private citizens may fix roads – and charge the government

At the beginning of March, another ground-breaking judgment was handed down which was applauded by the general public.

The Eastern Cape High Court passed a judgement which now makes it possible for private citizens to perform basic service delivery and claim the costs of performance from the government, the very same people who are supposed to be performing the service themselves.

This case concerned a group of farmers in the Eastern Cape who took it upon themselves to fix various rural roads that had fallen into disrepair, after becoming tired of waiting and asking the government for help.

The Court ordered the Department of Roads and Public Works to pay back the farmers who had repaired the roads. The Department of Roads and Public Works raised the concern that such a judgement could lead to abuse by citizens looking to make a ‘quick buck’. However, the Court imposed strict conditions in order for a claim to be successful:

  • Citizens must give the government department concerned at least 30 days’ notice of the repairs or service they intend to perform
  • Citizens must provide the department with at least two independent quotes indicating how much the repairs will cost

The above judgement makes it possible for private people and companies to, essentially, fulfil the role of government in neglected areas and provide desperately needed services.

This judgment will without a doubt have extensive consequences around South Africa as other farmers and civil society groups will follow suit.

This judgment is a victory for society in that it ensured that justice triumphed for the people who had no other choice but to do and fund the work that the government was in fact supposed to do.


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