Finetown Bridge: A victory for accountability, good governance, and civil activism for social change

For many years the community of Finetown faced a daily challenge of crossing a stream on their daily trips to reach their homes, local shops, and nearby schools, a lack of a bridge across the stream not only made life difficult, but also symbolised a larger issue of a lack of infrastructure.

Despite promises made during the 2023 by-elections, progress on a solution was stagnant. Action for Accountability, a project initiated by the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation (AKF) in partnership with Accountability Lab SA (ALSA) and the Public Service Accountability Monitor (PSAM) has turned things around by investing heavily in training local communities in using community monitoring tools to address service delivery problems and make the government more accountable to communities. Through community meetings and written complaints, the project mobilised local residents to form a community action team, highlighting the bridge issue as a priority. Despite initial challenges, including budget constraints, current Ward 7 Cllr Lois Wizza Simonse took up the cause. She undertook to engage the MMC for Roads and Transport in the City of Johannesburg.

After months of tireless advocacy and unwavering determination, the community’s persistence and Cllr Simonse’s support finally yielded tangible results. By the end of January 2024, the long-awaited construction of the bridge was underway. The news brought immense relief to parents and students alike, who had long endured the challenges posed by the lack of a safe and reliable passage. Many residents have openly expressed their heartfelt gratitude for the impending completion of the bridge, recognising its potential to significantly improve their quality of life.

This story is about more than the new bridge that is being built, it is a testament to the power of community action and accountability. It showcases how a community, through its collective efforts, can bring about positive change and hold authorities accountable. Beyond a safe route to school, the young people in Finetown have gained an expanded vision of what is possible, for themselves and for their community.

They have the opportunity to see their mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers trained in being active citizens for change, and to see their community come together to invest in a project that will create sustainable and lasting impact.

Overall, this project is a reminder that any challenge can be overcome when communities work hand in hand with public representatives to support a culture of accountability and good governance. A4A notes that the Ward Councillor and the MMC for Transport embraced the call for accountability and responded positively.

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