By PHILIP MACHANICK, Makana Citizens Front (MCF)
MCF frequently hears: “You are our last hope.” But we only deserve residents’ commitment and support if we earn that through our sweat. Words are easy; it’s actions that count.
In five short months, Makana Citizens Front PR councillors, elected in November 2021, Lungile Mxube, Philip Machanick, Jane Bradshaw, Kungeka Mashiane and Jonathan Walton have made an impact.
Before we were sworn into Council, we objected to a tender for a much-needed shopping mall in Joza where the compulsory briefing was advertised with only two working days’ notice. We were concerned that the tender award could be contested after the event.
We thwarted the ANC’s unlawful attempt at rerunning the election of the council’s representatives to the District Council in an attempt at engineering an ANC majority in the Sarah Baartman District Council.
We demanded that the Municipal Manager address the Auditor-General’s Report (Disclaimer of Opinion) line by line. When he failed to do so in the last Council meeting, we insisted that he do it again correctly.
Our Infrastructure Committee representative, Councillor Mxube, wrote to the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Water and Sanitation to call for a forensic audit of James Kleynhans projects going back to 2010. We added up R600-million allocated over more than ten years to upgrades of a water plant that should have been possible to complete in a year for not much more than R100-million. And it is still not complete and not being publicly reported on.
Councillor Mxube also brought to the attention of the Council the fact that Jamieson Dam, following expensive refurbishments, had been turned into a cattle and goat farm and had been illegitimately closed off to the public for recreational use.
Our other councillors have raised numerous issues through their portfolios and attempted to raise them in Council. As with the DA, we have frequently found our motions and questions vanish from the agenda.
We have also demanded that the Kabuso Report, now long overdue for action, be placed before Council.
In the last Council meeting, our final significant contribution was demanding that the Council workshop the Integrated Development Plan (IDP) before being released for public comment. Each newly-elected council is required to develop an IDP that lasts the council’s lifetime and is annually reviewed. The IDP guides budgeting and targets development strategically, particularly to address inequity.
The IDP placed before the council is a disgraceful document. Riddled with errors, its priorities are generic and not tailored to Makana. It would be useless as a starting point for budgeting or planning, frankly not fit for purpose.
The mayor has still not convened this workshop, yet the process of advertising the IDP for public comment has already started. We do not know if the numerous corrections we submitted will be taken into account. A poorly-written IDP will make it much harder to plan over the next five years.
Outside of Council, we have created an innovative shadow councillor programme. Starting with MCF ward candidates, we recruited other community activists to fill gaps and grew this programme to cover 13 out of 14 wards.
To fund this programme, each councillor has been giving up 50% or more (depending on their means) of their council salary. Shadow councillors are tasked with being the eyes and ears of the community – doing the job a good councillor should do. They chase up service delivery issues and bring matters to the attention of our councillors. These MCF shadow councillors who subscribed to this programme, plus the PR councillors who were also ward candidates, between them account for about two-thirds of the MCF vote.
Shadow councillors are councillors-in-waiting. We aim to build a base for winning future ward contests with candidates who have an established track record of community service and are well equipped to serve in council and be effective. In the meantime, the current elected MCF PR councillors are putting pressure on all those in council to do their jobs.
Post local elections in November 2021, the MCF has run programmes to identify community priorities and create champions for tackling corruption. We have organised workshops attended by national organisations such as OUTA and the Southern African Revenue Protection Association. We are also working on skills development programmes and generally trying to identify blockages to sustainable development in Makana.
Our elected PR councillors and shadow councillors have taken up numerous issues on behalf of residents: street lights out, power outages, failure to pick up garbage, wasteful overtime, water leaks and many more.
MCF is uniquely representative. Our five elected PR councillors represent all the major components of our population, and two out of five are women. The majority of our shadow councillors are women, and we are the only group in council whose representation spans rich and poor and who bridge the east-west divide.
At an MCF meeting on 9 May 2022, we had to give our shadow councillors the sad news that we can no longer afford top pay stipends, which we had been paying out of our council salaries until we undo the unlawful removal of our elected councillors. No one walked out.
The MCF movement is about doing our best for the people. None of the elected MCF councillors is in council for the money.
Makana residents wanted a movement that they could support. They tasked us with creating a functioning municipality that works for everyone and values their community.
As a new movement with very limited means, communication has been second to action. If you want to know more about us and our programmes, do get in touch. You can find our contact information on our website https://makana-citizens-front.org.za or follow us on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/MakanaCitizensFront).