Putting it all in writing

Once you have collected all the information you need, write a letter or memorandum setting out your complaint. The box below explains what you should include in your letter.

Your letter should:

  • contain all the information about the problem including the number of people affected, what they have experienced and how long the problem has been going on.
  • have all the information about what steps you have taken to solve the problem.
  • include copies of any letters that have already been sent.
  • include, if you have them, copies of relevant by-laws, policies, etc.
  • explain what your organisation or community demands. Be as specific as you can, for example, a tap for every four households, clean water and monthly water testing, accessible water no more than 200 metres from people’s homes, weekly reports to the community about what work has been done to improve the water service.
  • give a reasonable time for delivery of these services.
  • ask for a response within a specific date.

If the councillor or officials you report the problem to do not respond within a reasonable time, or their response is not helpful, go to officials higher up in the structure: ask for the supervisor, manager or another responsible person and make the complaint again. Each time you do not receive a response that is helpful, continue going up the “chain of command” all the way to the top including supervisors, managers, the municipal manager, the portfolio committee chairperson, the mayor, the provincial government, national government, the judge, or even to the Constitutional Court.

If – as a result of your letter – government officials or politicians ask you to meet them, do. But before your meeting:

  • Hold a meeting with the community.
  • Decide what your demands are.
  • Decide what is a reasonable amount of time for the government to do these things.
  • Decide who will speak on behalf of the community.

Be prepared to be flexible, but also be firm. If the meetings do not result in any improvements, or if you feel like promises are being made but not kept, keep up your campaign. Remember these are your rights.