State of emergency

The closing down of Grahamstown's only private ambulance service at the end of this month throws two very different forces in our town into sharp relief.

On the one hand, people with the means to do so will pay as much as is necessary to prevent being at the mercy of unreliable state services.

And who could blame them. In October the South African Human Rights Commission released an extensive report on the Eastern Cape's Emergency Medical Services.

The report highlights poor response time because of too few vehicles and poor roads across the province, and staff who aren't properly trained, among other factors making are some of the factors that make private ambulance services an unquestioned choice for those who can afford it.

The fact that another private company is stepping in to fill the gap, even before the public knew about the existing service in Grahamstown closing down, is testament to market forces, and excellent entrepreneurship. It will be a huge relief for those on medical aid to know they're not being left high and dry.

But it is also yet another marker of the widening gap of inequality that Rhodes University Vice Chancellor Dr Sizwe Mabizela speaks about in this edition. He has made some of his strongest statements yet on the subject in an interview the day after the institution met to finalise its no-fees-increase budget.

"We cannot continue to be indifferent to the plight of the poor and marginalised in our society, and if we do, we do it at our own peril," he says. Still in limbo are the Grahamstown residents displaced in last month's looting and intimidation.

As reports emerge of rifts between different groups of immigrants awaiting reintegration into communities, there are also concerns that lack of harmony among those managing the process is hindering it.

There are even concerns that political expediency in some quarters might be taking precedence over genuine problem solving. The name change debate is back. We've heard the arguments for and against a lot over the years.

What we're asking now is, could something like a new name have the power to unite the shattered and restless community that Grahamstown has become in the past few weeks?

Because that's surely what matters right now.

The Grocott's Christmas Cheer Fund has got off to a fantastic start, and we're sure that with your help we're going to be able to help put smiles on the faces of the children at Ikhaya Losizo Cluster Foster Homes.

Have a look on page 12 to see how the Fund is filling up!

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