It is much rarer than one might think, that the media can actually effect positive action from a ruling authority.
Despite years of intense coverage of seemingly endless corruption in government at all levels in South Africa, nothing has changed.
Misdeeds might be exposed and charges laid, but as we have seen from the Jacob Zuma saga playing out right now, the high and mighty remain seemingly untouchable. Even when found guilty by the courts, lower ranking politicians and their cronies in business have also escaped with barely a slap on the wrist.
At our own municipal level, years of reporting on water problems, sewage spills and failed audits has not changed anything. Criminal investigations into missing laptops, alleged tender corruption and deliberate polluting of the Kowie River have also gone nowhere.
Often we feel helpless about getting any answers to our questions, let alone influence any change for the better.
But we learn to take satisfaction in the small things.
That’s why it was such a joy to learn over the weekend, that my coverage of the SPCA’s predicament over burial sites for dead animals actually achieved a positive result.
SPCA admin manager Forbes Coutts must have seen some leverage value in having TotT with him when he visited the municipality last Friday, initially with the plan to deliver the carcasses of animals the SPCA had been unable to bury because the municipality had not provided a TLB to dig trenches for graves despite four weeks of asking.
Coutts decided to ask to see infrastructural development director Noluthando Vithi first, before he carried out his symbolic act, in the hope of compelling the municipality to respond.
Vithi was unavailable, which she often is, and Coutts was getting nowhere at reception. I suggested he ask for her deputy Sipho Babama or another official, Onke Sopela.
Happily, Babama was there and willing to speak to Coutts. I decided to do a Facebook live video to get on-the-spot coverage, as our Tittle Tattle videos are usually well received and get instant reaction from viewers.
Babama was a bit nervous about the video, but I assured him that the camera was focused only on Coutts, who waited patiently while Babama finished a phone conversation.
He then explained the situation to Babama, although he said Babama was well aware of previous requests for a TLB.
Babama assured Coutts that he would try get the TLB to the SPCA as an emergency. It did indeed arrive on Saturday and dug the required trenches.
We have no doubt TotT’s presence and coverage made all the difference.
– Jon Houzet