n Journal for Contemporary History - Leaving behind a "twisted soul" : the 2008-2009 cholera outbreak in South Africa

Volume 34, Issue 3
  • ISSN : 0258-2422
  • E-ISSN: 2415-0509



In November 2008 a deadly cholera epidemic threatened South Africa. What began in Zimbabwe in August 2008 as the by-product of that country's political and socio-economic chaos and the ensuing collapse of effective municipal government, now spread to various states in southern Africa. Described as the worst outbreak of cholera in Africa in 15 years, it could not have come at a more inopportune time. As emergency teams began helping hundreds of cholera patients at the northernmost South African border town of Musina on 15 November, a vigorous public debate on the country's water services reached a climax. There was widespread public discontent with general service delivery, especially in South Africa's municipal government sector. Claims by government that it was indeed meeting its commitments to the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, a global initiative to eradicate poverty, especially in the developing world, were openly questioned by experts as well as municipal rate and taxpayers in many parts of the country.

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