By AYANDA KOTA, Makana Citizens Front (MCF)
In our view, Philip Machanick and Sally Price-Smith, the past and present leaders of the Makana Residents Association (MRA) have misrepresented the facts in their recent letters to Grocott’s Mail. They have chosen the gutter politics of slander. We will maintain the high moral ground.
We wish we could come together and work as a town for the common good despite our differences — even deep disagreements. Failure to do this will harm all of us and help perpetuate the problems that motivated the formation of the Makana Citizens Front (MCF) in the first place. We know why MCF was formed.
We are deeply aware that if we do not work together as a town and capitalise on our mutual strengths, we will not succeed in rescuing our city from years of neglect born of poor leadership.
We don’t need to be friends — and we can have profound disagreements about what has come to pass— but we should all be willing to recognise our common humanity and the need to work together to achieve the common goal of saving our town from the mendacious mediocrity of those steering the sinking ship of Makana straight to the place where cities go to die. We must walk away from dehumanising remarks, such as associating the black working class councillors with brainless idiots that lack capacity.
The replacement of the five Makana Citizens Front (MCF) councillors stems from a misunderstanding that led to a transgression that should have been resolved shortly after the last municipal elections. Instead of productive conversations, positions became entrenched, and battle lines were drawn. Sadly, they are the familiar battle lines between Makhanda East and West. That should never have happened — it showed the extent to which we are a wounded nation.
The Makana Citizens Front (MCF) is the product of the protracted struggles of the people of Makhanda to save our town from the clutches of iniquity. The MCF represents the hope that, after decades of incomprehension, Makhanda East and West could work together with a sense of purpose. Instead, the initiative has backfired, and old divisions of racism have reared their ugly heads. We genuinely hope we can find the strength to turn this episode of the town’s history into an occasion to learn.
On June 16 2021, during the shutdown, a decision was taken to form a civic movement that would contest elections. This decision was born of the need to bring people’s voices into the heart of our broken municipality by playing an oversight role in the Council.
The MCF was registered very soon before the local government elections and consequently relied, perhaps too heavily, on the goodwill of all those involved in the process. The MCF was born out of mass protest in Makhanda, and hundreds volunteered to hit the ground running to mobilise voters. These people worked day and night selflessly to achieve their goals. The consequence of our collective efforts is that we won five PR seats, an important achievement for a small, newly-formed party. And we need to pay our respects to all those that supported us rather than turning our backs on them or paternalistically assuming that alleged experts must manage them.
It should be clarified that people do not vote for PR candidates, and these lists tend to be tentative until after the elections. The reason for this is apparent. Since one does not know how many Council seats will be won, the PR list allows parties flexibility in line with their strategic objectives. The fundamental disagreement that has led to this public spat resides there. Those on the top of the list took it for granted that their positions were fixed in stone. Those not on the list disagreed.
Around 26 PR councillor candidates were chosen and 12 ward councillor candidates. As we understand it, the MCF agreed that, once the election results were tallied, if the MCF secured any PR councillor seats, they would be democratically elected from the 38 PR and ward candidates. This did not happen, and the five candidates on top of the PR list wrongly assumed that they were duly elected.
The MCF welcomes people from all persuasions, provided that they are committed to promoting the aims of democracy, which in effect means promoting the flourishing of Makhanda East, West and the broad municipal area, which includes Riebeek East, Alicedale, Salem, surrounding farms and other human settlements.
The MCF is a movement to promote care, respect, empathy, solidarity and, of course, freedom and responsibility. We welcome people of all persuasions. All we require of our members is a commitment to helping us foster the common good. Our driving aim is to help create a society where fundamental human values can find their full expression.
On 5 November 2021, a meeting was convened at Amazwi Museum to assess the election campaign and chart a way forward. At this meeting, more than 400 people underscored the fact that the PR list drawn before the elections was not cast in stone. A decision was taken to constitute a committee to interview everyone, both proposed PR and ward candidates. A committee comprises respected activists Mazibuko Jara, Russel Grinker and Fundile Mafongosi.
0n 7 November 2021, before the above process took place, Philip Machanick issued a public statement treating the temporary PR list as final. This was in direct contravention of the decisions taken at Amazwi by the general membership.
The MCF can now finally begin working for all the residents of Makhanda – to stop corruption and uplift our town, as we promised to do. If we promote unity rather than divisiveness, we have a good chance of saving our city from the clutches of iniquity. MCF will focus on the Financial Recovery Plan born of the historic landmark judgement, the dissolution of the Makana Municipality Council. We need to work together to make sure that Financial Recovery Plan is a success for our city and its children. If we fail, history will not forgive us. The hard work of Advocate Izak Smuts, Gavin Brown and Brin Brody will come to zero.