Within two days of arriving in Grahamstown, district municipal manager Ted Pillay had secured the continued use of the Jetpatcher that the citizen group Makana Revive brought to town at the beginning of the month to fix the city’s notorious potholes.
The machine, accompanied by a team of four from East London, started work repairing Albert Street in Fingo Village last Thursday and has proceeded to repair the town’s busier access roads. Pillay, seconded by the Sarah Baartman District Municipality to Makana for a three-month turnaround, was introduced to the Makana Council at its first full sitting of the year, last Wednesday.
On Friday he was out on the streets across the city, including at the site of the Jetpatcher operations.
This week, Pillay confirmed that since Tuesday, as acting municipal manager, he has taken over the Jetpatcher on behalf of Makana and has budgeted close to half a million rands to see through what the town’s citizens started.
“The Jetpatcher is still working in Grahamstown and will remain here for a minimum of 20 days,” Pillay said. “We are hoping that through this good initiative, most of the potholes on the main routes in the CBD will be dealt with.
“I am also very worried about residential areas throughout Grahamstown and the Jetpatcher will be working there as well.”
He confirmed that the major taxi routes of O Street and M Street were among the roads targeted for repair.
Makana would foot the bill, but would be reimbursed by the District for the roughly R500 000 the operations were expected to cost. “That will depend on the rate of repairs, and how much material is used,” Pillay said.
Asked how he planned to turn the crisis-wracked Makana Municipality around, Pillay said, “I know very well the state of the municipality and I have a good feel for the institution.
The enormous problems Makana faces are institutional, financial and in service delivery.
“While I have bigger issues to tackle, I cannot allow the situation with infrastructure and services to prevail.“
Pillay said he would persist with that agenda – including getting potholes fixed – “until this town starts to change”.
“I want people to have hope again,” Pillay said. “I intend to make sure services are available to all citizens of Makana.”
Support for action
At last week’s Council meeting, speakers from both the DA and the ANC urged the municipality and citizens to throw their weight behind Pillay during his time in Makana. Was there political support for what he was undertaking?
“I have to do what I have to do,” Pillay said. “I am focused on the task before me.”
During the past few council meetings, councillors and officials have spoken about a poor work ethic among employees. Was Pillay receiving co-operation from staff at Makana?
“The whole challenge is for us to realise that we need to improve morale here,” Pillay said. “We need to motivate everyone, make them feel valued and realise why they are coming to work. Then hopefully they can start to perform optimally.”
Excessive overtime also received attention in council meetings last year, and again in this year’s inaugural one. Would he be tackling that?
“All financial related matters including overtime, everything pertaining to the financial sustainablity of the institution – from billing, collections, expenditure, payroll – all that is what I will be looking at,” Pillay said.
“The bottom line is to restore the sustainability of the institution,” Pillay said.
Makana Revive spokesperson Ron Weissenberg said it was too early to assess what difference Pillay’s presence in Makana was making.
However, he said residents could become more involved “by understanding the issues, joining civil society organisations like the GRA and not being shy to offer particular skills or expertise”.
- Additional reporting by Kathryn Cleary