Crunch time for Makana


Members of the Unemployed People’s Movement lead residents in a protest from Fingo Square to the City Hall, where they handed over a memorandum of demands to acting municipal manager Nomthandazo Mazwai on Thursday 16 November. Photos: Sue Maclennan

Makana Municipality has this week come under pressure from all directions, with civil society organisations rallying around service delivery and accountability demands, as the Province threatens administration and the DA calls for complete dissolution of the Council.

Around 200 members of the Unemployed People’s Movement marched to the City Hall yesterday to hand over a memorandum demanding action on a range of issues ranging from corruption and the Kabuso Report to housing allocations, poor sanitation and frequent water outages. The group, mostly women and young people who came from various parts of Grahamstown as well as Sevenfountains, gathered at Fingo Square and marched to the City Hall where individuals addressed their fellow protesters.

Members of the Unemployed People’s Movement lead residents in a protest from Fingo Square to the City Hall, where they handed over a memorandum of demands to acting municipal manager Nomthandazo Mazwai on Thursday 16 November. Photos: Sue Maclennan

Amanda Ntlokwana, with Ayanda Kota.

The UPM’s Ayanda Kota (right) indicates for the crowd to give Anelisa Nkomo, Nombulelo Grade 9 pupil, the opportunity to speak.

Acting municipal manager Nomthandazo Mazwai came out to face the cold, drizzly weather and the crowd, as march leader Sithembele Sithunda read out the memorandum addressed to Local Government MEC Fikile Xasa, the Mayoral Council and Makana Municipality represented by Mayor Nomhle Gaga and Mazwai.

In summary the document called for corrective action and accountable governance. Referring to Cogta’s 2015 Local Government Anti-Corruption Strategy, it called for professionalism, the efficient use of resources, accountability and transparency in Makana’s administration.

“Makana Municipality has for far too long displayed an inability or unwillingness to respect laws and strategies aimed at improving its governance so that it can deliver public services effectively, efficiently and economically. As a result, human rights are being violated and under-performing public servants and those implicated in corrupt acts are not being held accountable,” it read.

Sithembele Sithunda and Ayanda Kota read out the memorandum.

It called for:

* The recommendations of the Kabuso Forensic Investigation Final Report to be implemented;

* An independent investigation into repeated water outages

* The implementation of the Financial Recovery Plan drawn up during the 2015 administrator’s term;

* Cogta to consider drastic corrective action as required by the Constitution;

* The release of the full terms of reference and mandate of the administrator to be shortly appointed at Makana Municipality;

* An independent investigation into the completion and allocation of Extension 10 houses;

* That COGTA and the Municipality introduce and routinely hold publicly accessible hearings on any planned interventions to obtain input from the public;

* Regular updates to the public on action taken to address the challenges in Makana;

* The Municipality to provide the public with a detailed update on its indebtedness to major creditors, and how this will be managed, with due regard for the Financial Recovery Plan;

The UPM demanded a response from each arm of government on or before 30 November 2017.

Philip Machanick, Grahamstown Residents Association chairperson, with the UPM’s Ayanda Kota. The GRA was not officially part of the protest.

Chairperson of the Grahamstown Residents Association Philip Machanick also addressed the group, calling for councilors and officials to do their jobs.

Asked by Grocott’s Mail why GRA members hadn’t marched alongside the UPM, given many of their concerns were the same, Machanick said they didn’t have details of their plan in time to discuss with their committee and develop a collective response.

“GRA was not officially part of the UPM protest but was there to show support for the Unemployed People’s Movement,” Machanick told Grocott’s Mail.

“Our main demand in the Makana financial crisis is that the system should work the way it is designed. It is not in our remit to question government policy. In fact the government’s framework for delivering services for the poor should be implemented. That includes reasonable subsidy from the wealthier parts of the community and Equitable Share grants from national Treasury that are meant to assist the municipality with servicing the poor.

“We have been working with other civil society organisations for the better part of six months on urgent action to fix the management problems in Makana and we recognise that the poor are at the sharp end of those problems.

“We will continue to pursue whatever remedies there may be to turn the situation around including working with other civil society organisations wherever we find common ground.”

The march was disciplined and peaceful. Mazwai briefly addressed the group before signing receipt of the memorandum.

Meanwhile, the Democratic Alliance (DA) in Makana Municipality has welcomed the announcement made by the MEC for Cooperate Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) Fikile Xasa, of the intention to place Makana Municipality under administration, but has called for the ANC-led Council to be dissolved entirely.

The Dispatch this week reported that Makana was one of three Eastern Cape municipalities issued with letters from Xasa, requiring them to give him reasons why he should not place them under Section 139 (1)(a) administration within 14 days to restore stability. The others are Mnquma (Butterworth) and Enoch Mgijima (Komani).

DA caucus leader in Makana Municipality Mlindi Nhanha, however, has called for Xasa to go further and not to invoke section 139(1)a, but 139(1)c, which dissolves council and call for elections in 90 days.

“We further wish to urge the MEC to appoint a properly qualified administrator with a solid track record in local government. Makana has in the past seen mediocre administrators with very limited authority and powers and their failure was forgone,” Nhanha said.

“Every street in Grahamstown has potholes and illegal dumpsites. Power cuts by Eskom hang over us on a daily basis and the municipality’s inability to pay its debts has reached unprecedented levels. The DA is looking forward to a formal announcement by MEC Xasa.”

Kathryn Cleary reports from the march:

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