Residents want a new council
Demonstration and petition from desperate Makhanda citizens
Hundreds of people braved icy rain and heavy winds to march on Makhanda City Hall on Tuesday where they delivered a petition signed by more than 20,000 residents demanding that the decrepit city’s council be dissolved.
“No more politicians, potholes and poo,” proclaimed one poster which summarised exactly how many felt.
Businesses closed their doors and angry residents – who have over the past two weeks faced electricity and prolonged water outages in a soaring heat wave, as well as a massive fire on the municipal rubbish dump – said they wanted change.
Residents say they are tired of an inept council presiding over a hopeless and broke administration that has caused a complete collapse in public services.
Years of electricity and water outages, potholed roads, sewage flowing down suburban streets, uncollected rubbish everywhere, and stray cattle, donkeys and other animals in the roads have taken their toll on the small city.
Over the past two weeks, Makhanda East has had prolonged water outages due to burst pipes and an electricity fault that stopped one of the major pumping stations on the outskirts of the city from functioning.
Residents also fear a threatened daily blackout from Eskom over December. Eskom is owed tens of millions of rands by Makana Municipality.
One of the citizens driving the petition, local businesswoman Daphne Timm, on Tuesday said more than 20,722 people had signed the petition. Over the past week, dozens of residents have also daily stood outside the municipality’s finance department demanding that the municipality pay Eskom and that the city’s “fat cat” politicians step down.
There were fears on Tuesday that the march would clash with a last-minute “hands off our municipality” march organised by the ANC. However, the march never materialised. Local newspaper Grocotts Mail quoted ANC sub-region chair Mabhuti Matyumza as saying they had heard elements were planning to hijack the march and besmirch the ANC’s name.
The Grahamstown Residents’ Association’s Tim Bull said the petition called on the province to place Makana under full administration, dissolve the council and hold fresh elections.
The small city might punch above its weight in terms of being a strategic regional, legal, literary, art and education centre, but municipal incompetence has resulted in massive debt, collapsed water and sewerage infrastructure, and an explosion of informal rubbish dumps all over suburbia.
The Unemployed People’s Movement’s Ayanda Kota said it was significant that the demonstration was not under the banner of any political party.
He said the constitution was clear that if a municipality could not deliver services, the council should be dissolved.
“We say invoke that section of the constitution now.”
Council speaker Yandiswa Vara received the petition...