Good luck to new MM
Let us start with the good news. Makana Municipality finally got its person. Ted Pillay, who has a reputation for turning around troubled public institutions started a three-month stint as Acting Municipal Manager on 1 February. Pillay has been loaned to Grahamstown by the Sarah Baartman District Municipality and everyone has fingers crossed that he succeeds.
The other good news is that the Minister for Cooperative Government and Traditional Affairs revealed yesterday that he will ask Cabinet to declare a nation-wide disaster because of the drought in parts of South Africa, including the Eastern Cape. Such a declaration will unlock bring much needed national funding and expertise to sort out water management crisis we’ve experienced especially over the last two years.
A Jetpatcher contractor from East London filling up potholes around the city at the behest of private residents has been such a success that Pillay has committed R500 000 to keep the men in Grahamstown for another four weeks. According to Ron Weissenberg, Chairperson of the Makana Revive Committee, the response to the call for crowdsourcing for the Jetpatcher was so huge that the Facebook page had 6000 hits within hours and a decent amount of money had already been collected.
The Jetpatcher has so far filled potholes in Joza, Oatlands and parts of the CBD. You’d probably expect jealous municipal officials refusing permission to touch their roads or otherwise be a nuisance, since it was not their idea. But no; apparently, besides Pillay’s R500 000 intervention, traffic cops have been directing traffic away from areas that are being prepped.
We have just some broad concerns, which have nothing to do with MM Pillay’s decisive intervention to extend the life of a private initiative with public funding. Fixing roads is the responsibility of local authorities, and no amount of private interventions can wrench that monkey off their collective back.
Some economists have made the general argument that the state of a society is measured by how much government actually does for them. In Grahamstown, like elsewhere in parts of South Africa, and indeed across much of the continent, service delivery is so miserly that ordinary citizens often do it themselves (DIT).
Potholes? People either buy 4x4s, or high a Jetpatcher. Hospitals are terribly run and have no medicine? The haves go to private hospital even for a cough. Irregular electricity? But a generator an inverter or a solar panel, and take yourself off the power grid.
What about water? Well, rich and poor Grahamstonians have all essentially stopped drinking tap water and either queue for hours at the spring well, or buy machine-filtered water in the grocery stores.
These are all signs that there is something missing in democracy. As residents and citizens, we have a right to expect a minimum level of service delivery; and elected officials (and bureaucracy that supports them) have a responsibility to make that happen.
Acting Municipal Manager Ted Pillay appears to have hit the ground running. Good luck to him.