Debt-ridden Tshwane municipality eyes mind-bogglingly expensive scheme – but can’t deliver basic services.

To the man who is painting my house with skill, the fact that the Tshwane metro council is in a rush to spend billions it doesn’t have on a broadband network, means both nothing – and everything.

Like so many of our countrymen, Johannes Modise has yet to comprehend the technical buzz-words of the digital age. All he knows is that his old Nokia gives him connectivity, whether by an expensive cell phone call or the please-call-me option that he uses most of the time.

Because of its age, the Nokia’s battery does not last longer than a few hours and to recharge it Modise has to walk about two kilometres from his place to an RDP housing development where there is an electricity connection available. One of the homeowners collects R5 each time the Nokia is charged, blood money for the 73-year-old pensioner who survives on odd painting jobs and a government grant. But phoning some of his previous customers might just get Modise another piece-job and put food on the table for another day or two.

The place Modise calls home falls within the borders of the City of Tshwane, the ANC-run metro municipality that governs Pretoria. His house is not a makeshift one; he proudly built it himself a long time ago with bricks and mortar. But like his next-door neighbours, Modise is yet to get an electricity connection, running water and a sewage disposal point from the council

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