ROD AMNER and NYX MCLEAN, Grocott’s Mail editors
National commentators are paying attention to Makana’s local election. A recent New Frame editorial commented, “If the Makana Citizens Front (MCF) succeeds at the polls and then in office, the front could become a model to be emulated elsewhere in the country.”
It has been refreshing to see the emergence of the MCF, alongside the Makana Independent New Deal (MIND), as local alternatives to the established political parties.
The MCF candidates are drawn from diverse backgrounds, and the Front acts more like a civil rights movement than a political party. Its candidates have real support and a long track record of positive contributions to our communities.
Despite its tiny crowd-sourced budget and lack of national political infrastructure, the MCF consistently reached out and communicated its policies and perspectives to us at Grocott’s. Over the last few weeks, we have received a few comments on our Facebook page questioning why we have posted more articles about the MCF than other political parties. In our editorial on Friday, 8 October 2021, we responded to this by affirming our commitment to fair and citizen-centred coverage.
We have profiled candidates from political parties such as the ANC and the EFF, and we are committed to stepping up our coverage of all candidates next week in the build-up to the election. We have also repeatedly called for parties and candidates to reach out to us should they wish to be profiled.
But, the main reasons we have published more about the MCF than other parties are:
a. The MCF has provided us with detailed information on their campaign (as any political party that understands the local climate should).
b. We have received very little response to our open offer from other parties, bar a few independent candidates and a contribution from the DA.
Political parties are free to ignore local media platforms, like Grocott’s. But, voters surely deserve better access to quality information about candidates and their policies, manifestos and priorities, if they are to be active participants in local affairs, not the passive recipients of messaging manufactured in big cities by party machinery.
And it was disturbing to read the ruling party lash out at the broad non-racial coalition of concerned citizens who responded to the need for food support in the city in the wake of last year’s lockdown. A 19 October Facebook post by the ANC Makana sub-region accused “the white community led by the local white businesses” of using food parcels and soup kitchens to “infiltrate our black communities”.
It is also dangerous to reduce voters to passive recipients of services, often delivered by dubious tenders. In Makhanda, these services are often dysfunctional, as evidenced by the ongoing delays with upgrading the James Kleyhans water treatment works. Our Municipality scored a failing 43% in News24’s recently-published Out of Order index. We will need active participation from a broad coalition of citizens to transform our fortunes.
A good starting point for candidates and their parties would be to listen carefully to the citizens they are targeting, the same way Anna Majavu, Bonile Bam and Sibongile Portia Jonas listened when they recently visited several precarious rural communities in the Sarah Baartman district.
Parties need to think local in local elections. Votes come from the people who live everyday lives in cities, small towns, villages, and rural areas. They should not be seen as fodder for a party’s voting machine.
There has been criticism of political parties suddenly jumping up and responding to the many issues facing Makhandans in the weeks that lead up to the elections. What happens after the elections? Will there be sustained engagement with the community and their problems?
Once again, we encourage all political parties to contact us with their candidates’ profiles, vision, and anything else they would like us to cover. You can email us at email@example.com
And we implore all candidates to consider how their campaigns can be truly meaningful to the people of this city.