by ANNA MAJAVU
A Grahamstown Feeding Association (GFA) survey has found that 9000 households, or a total of 51 750 people in Makhanda, survive on less than one meal a day, and that if the proposed High Court relocation to Bhisho goes ahead, the resulting job losses will cause “unmitigated devastation” to the town’s food security.
In their submission to the government committee to rationalise the areas served by South Africa’s High Courts, GFA chairperson Gunda Krause said many people who lost their jobs and income during the Covid-19 pandemic now sourced their only meal of the day from Makhanda’s food kitchens.
The GFA’s own food kitchen provides 2400 meals monthly in the town centre.
“The meals we provide are the sole source of food for the majority of our recipients. This state of affairs should not exist, but it is our reality” said Krause.
She added that many of the GFA’s donors work in the law firms that will be forced to relocate to Bhisho if the main seat of the Eastern Cape Division of the High Court is moved.
“Far more alarming is that if the High Court were to move from this town, the numbers of indigent households in need of food support would increase substantially” Krause added, referring to the estimated 5000 job losses that will result from the move.
The GFA pointed out that domestic, garden, and childcare workers employed by the legal fraternity would also lose their jobs if the move goes ahead.
Between 1996 and 2012, four commissions considered moving the High Court out of Makhanda but all decided against it after hearing that the job losses would cripple the local economy of the town.
A new government committee to rationalise the areas served by South Africa’s High Courts has again recommended moving the Makhanda High Court to Bhisho, on the grounds that that the main seat of a provincial division of the High Court should be located in the province’s capital.
On 20 January 2023, the Makana High Court Action Committee released an economic impact report which concluded that if the High Court was moved, Makhanda would become a “ghost town”.
Dozens of objections to the move were sent to the committee ahead of their deadline last Friday, 27 January.