Good luck to new MM

Grocott's Mail - - MAKANA VOICES -

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.

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