It is to the government’s credit that it has established a number of service centres in rural areas in order to enable people living in those areas to have closer access to
service delivery. The 100th such centre was opened last weekend at the village of Inhlazuka near Richmond.
President Thabo Mbeki took the trouble to be present at this milestone event, together with KwaZulu-Natal premier Sbu Ndebele, thereby showing that the image of his aloofness tells only a part of the story. Mbeki has for a long time been saying that the key test of good governance is the extent to which it filters through at the local level. The rural centres are an attempt to make this a reality. For example, residents in or near Inhlazuka will no longer have to travel, an expense they can ill afford, to Pietermaritzburg for government services because the essential ones will be available in their own community.
Mbeki urged this community not only to make good use of the new facility but to be its custodian as well, protecting it from vandalism and abuse. The government, in its turn, faces an equal challenge to find civil servants willing to work in a relatively remote place and to provide a service that will be efficient and client-friendly.