Renewed call for action to stem Grahamstown decay

Corner African and Milner Streets in Grahamstown
Picture: Devon Koen

Concerned citizens rally after previous demand for intervention fell on deaf ears

Crumbling infrastructure, lack of municipal services and an alleged indifferent attitude by municipal officials have left residents of Grahamstown at their wits’ end.

Following an initial call in June by the Concerned Citizens Committee to Save Makana (CCCSM) for the Grahamstown-based Makana municipality to be placed under administration, calls for changes have allegedly fallen on deaf ears.

In a letter to residents last week, CCCSM chairman Ron Weissenberg called for action.

“Over the past few years, we’ve reached a critical point where jobs and livelihoods are being lost in Grahamstown,” he said.

During a visit to Grahamstown, a Herald reporter noted that road surfaces in some areas were virtually non-existent, litter lay strewn across the town, including around the historical Cathedral of St Michael and St George, and livestock roamed the streets freely.

Edward Gaybba, 43, who lives on a farm a short distance outside town with his wife and three children, said that in the past two months he had spent R15 000 on repairs to his two vehicles because of the state of the roads.

“The infrastructure here is falling apart [and] we are watching how people are losing money because of damage to their vehicles,” he said.

A resident in town, Celeste Marais, 36, said she was frustrated with the municipality because she could never get hold of any officials.

“Just before Christmas, there was no water for two days and there was no one at the municipal offices answering calls,” she said.

Marais said she too had to replace two tyres on her car recently after driving through large potholes.

Thabo Ntiya, 26, who has lived in Grahamstown for seven years, said water and electricity were major issues for him.

“Sometimes there is no water in the afternoons and no one tells us why,” he said.

Grahamstown Business Forum chairman Richard Gaybba said business and local investment confidence was virtually non-existent because of the poor state of the town.

“Very few businesses can survive without good infrastructure and some municipal services,” he said.

“Jobs are lost and no new job opportunities are created. Investors will look elsewhere, [if] they haven’t already.”

Grahamstown Residents’ Association chairman Philip Machanick said it was not the mandate of the organisation to do the mayor’s job or to take over the running of the municipality.

“In a situation of out-of-control debt and failing service delivery where the incumbents have failed to deliver despite repeated promises, something has to change,” Machanick said.

Municipal spokeswoman Yoliswa Ramokolo said the municipality was working closely with different departments as well as the provincial government to address the concerns raised by residents.

“The municipality is more than determined to ensure that the appointment of a permanent municipal manager is completed successfully as that is very critical in turning around the fortunes of the municipality,” she said.

Meanwhile, the CCCSM has called for residents of Grahamstown to join them in a rally to be held in front of the Grahamstown City Hall on Thursday to reiterate their demand for urgent intervention to improve the governance of Grahamstown.

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