Res­i­dents pre­fer ra­dio to hear from Makana

Grocott's Mail - - MAKANA VOICES -

With an es­ti­mated pop­u­la­tion of 82 060, Gra­ham­stown is well known for be­ing home to Rhodes Uni­ver­sity and the fa­mous Na­tional Arts Fes­ti­val. Re­gard­less of the many suc­cesses the town en­joys with the Fes­ti­val and ed­u­ca­tion in­sti­tu­tions, the mu­nic­i­pal­ity has been strug­gling with se­ri­ous ad­min­is­tra­tive challenges. Makana was placed un­der ad­min­is­tra­tion in 2015, fol­low­ing its in­abil­ity to pay staff salaries and a huge debt.

The nine-month in­ter­ven­tion did not yield the ex­pected out­come as Makana still suf­fers from debt, and poor ser­vice de­liv­ery. Wa­ter out­ages are con­sis­tent and al­most ev­ery road in town has pot­holes due to lack of main­te­nance and mis­man­age­ment of the pub­lic re­sources. The lo­cal civil so­ci­ety or­gan­i­sa­tions col­lec­tive call­ing it­self the Makana Unity League has started call­ing for ad­min­is­tra­tion again. How­ever, there are some who are con­cerned that out­side in­ter­ven­tion is fu­tile, as proven by the pre­vi­ous ex­pe­ri­ence.

Gra­ham­stown res­i­dents have be­come ac­cus­tomed to protests and marches, head­ing to the mu­nic­i­pal of­fices to make their con­cerns known and de­mand an­swers for the poor state of the mu­nic­i­pal­ity. Stud­ies show that it is to the best in­ter­ests of so­ci­ety to en­sure that duty-bear­ers manage pub­lic re­sources in an ef­fi­cient, trans­par­ent, and so­cially ac­count­able man­ner.

In or­der to do this, the cit­i­zens need to un­der­stand how the var­i­ous govern­ment pro­cesses work. So­cial ac­count­abil­ity per­tains to the cit­i­zens’ abil­ity to hold govern­ment ac­count­able for its ac­tions, by de­mand­ing ex­pla­na­tions and jus­ti­fi­ca­tions for cer­tain ac­tions. The right to so­cial ac­count­abil­ity, there­fore, pro­motes en­gage­ment and trans­parency re­gard­ing the man­age­ment of pub­lic re­sources.

In or­der to ef­fi­ciently ex­er­cise their right to so­cial ac­count­abil­ity, cit­i­zens need to be in­formed about the op­er­a­tions of the pub­lic re­sources man­age­ment sys­tem and the var­i­ous chan­nels to fol­low when query­ing the use of pub­lic re­sources. It was this rea­son that drove the Un­em­ployed Peo­ple’s Move­ment (UPM) and the Pub­lic Ser­vice Ac­count­abil­ity Mon­i­tor (PSAM) to want to un­der­stand the ac­ces­si­bil­ity of the so­cial ac­count­abil­ity in­for­ma­tion in Gra­ham­stown.

The PSAM is a uni­ver­si­ty­based or­gan­i­sa­tion in­volved in so­cial ac­count­abil­ity mon­i­tor­ing while the UPM is a com­mu­nity-based so­cial move­ment that as­sists the pub­lic deal with var­i­ous is­sues. They part­nered to con­duct re­search around ac­ces­si­bil­ity of in­for­ma­tion to the Gra­ham­stown com­mu­nity.

Due to lim­ited re­sources and time-frames, only 30 peo­ple (15 men and 15 women) be­tween 18 and 69 were in­ter­viewed. They were from Joza, Vukani, Hlalani, Ethem­beni, and Fingo, Gra­ham­stown West and Cen­tral. Re­spon­dents in­di­cated that they had suf­fi­cient knowl­edge re­gard­ing the roles or the var­i­ous pub­lic ser­vants, al­though they needed in­for­ma­tion re­lated the var­i­ous govern­ment process that af­fect them as the pub­lic. They iden­ti­fied the so­cial ac­count­abil­ity re­lated in­for­ma­tion as: • All sorts of in­for­ma­tion that con­cerned them as com­mu­nity mem­bers and civil so­ci­ety. • Ba­sic rights and grants in­for­ma­tion. • Mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties ex­pen­di­ture records and the mis­man­age­ment of re­sources where ap­pli­ca­ble. • The In­te­grated De­vel­op­ment Plans (IDP), their bud­get al­lo­ca­tion and how they are spent, as well as hav­ing ac­cess to the [mu­nic­i­pal] five-year plans and progress re­ports. • How the govern­ment ad­ver­tises their posts and re­cruits of­fi­cials • Ten­ders and the cri­te­ria for ac­cess­ing them. • Who gets the ser­vices and the var­i­ous steps an in­di­vid­ual needs to take to ac­cess ad­e­quate ser­vices and em­ploy­ment? • Wa­ter and san­i­ta­tion is­sues, es­pe­cially when they af­fect the com­mu­nity, like wa­ter short­ages, etc. and be reg­u­larly in­formed about mu­nic­i­pal­ity af­fairs. • Who to ap­proach or where to re­port when your rights are be­ing vi­o­lated? • Would like trans­parency con­cern­ing the man­age­ment of re­sources. • What re­sources are there that the mu­nic­i­pal­ity can pro­vide for the peo­ple? How govern­ment of­fi­cials ought to be­have be­cause I see that they are all cor­rupt start­ing from par­lia­ment to lo­cal and pro­vin­cial, to me they are the same?

The re­spon­dents wanted the re­source man­age­ment process to be trans­par­ent enough to al­low the com­mu­nity to mon­i­tor and as­sess the use of funds and en­sure that proper reg­u­la­tions were fol­lowed when spend­ing. There seemed to be a clear un­der­stand­ing that while, govern­ment re­sources were lim­ited: • The process of au­dit­ing [fi­nan­cial man­age­ment within the mu­nic­i­pal­ity] and the na­ture of ser­vices be­ing de­liv­ered. • The ba­sis un­der which the needs [of the cit­i­zens] are iden­ti­fied and the strate­gies that in­form ser­vice de­liv­ery. • What hap­pens when the re­sources are not be­ing man­aged ad­e­quately? They ex­plained that they did not want to de­pend on the govern­ment, but needed as­sis­tance them to start their own en­ter­prises.

“Where we can go to get re­sources to start our own busi­ness and what help can we get from the govern­ment to have those busi­nesses?” one re­spon­dent said.

Some in­for­mants stated that they have been kept in the dark by their of­fi­cials re­gard­ing the state of af­fairs in their lo­cal re­gions, and that it was the re­spon­si­bil­ity of the pub­lic to en­sure that the said of­fi­cials be­come more en­gag­ing and trans­par­ent. They em­pha­sised the fact that ev­ery cit­i­zen should ben­e­fit from the re­sources of the coun­try, es­pe­cially since the new demo­cratic regime prides it­self on be­ing for the peo­ple.

With re­gard to the ac­ces­si­bil­ity of so­cial ac­count­abil­ity, Fig­ure 1 con­tains rat­ings re­lated to how res­i­dents re­ceive in­for­ma­tion while Fig­ure 2 shows their pre­ferred medium of com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

In these il­lus­tra­tions, talk­ing (word of mouth and meet­ings) were the most used ways of com­mu­ni­cat­ing with res­i­dents, with leaflets, in­ter­net and ra­dio rated the low­est. Yet, ra­dio was rated the high­est as the pre­ferred tool for cir­cu­lat­ing and dis­tribut­ing so­cial ac­count­abil­ity in­for­ma­tion. Which is just as well, as the re­spon­dents also in­di­cated a need for en­gage­ment plat­forms, which is a cored strength of ra­dio sta­tions like Ra­dio Gra­ham­stown.

• Lin­delwa Nx­ele is Ad­vo­cacy Im­pact Pro­gramme Of­fi­cer and Re­searcher

FIG­URE 1: HOW THEY CUR­RENTLY RE­CEIVE IN­FOR­MA­TION.

FIG­URE 2: PRE­FERRED MEDIUM OF COM­MU­NI­CA­TION.

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