by Staff Reporter
Informal garbage piles, livestock roaming the street, and a lack of notice about water shedding days are the main concerns of residents from Wards Eight and 12 in Makhanda.
About 50 residents of West Hill, Sunnyside, Fort England, the Rhodes university and the town centre area, and parts of Fingo posed tough questions to mayor Yandiswa Vara, municipal manager Phumelelo Kate, municipal speaker Mabhuti Matyumza and other municipal executive members at the Integrated Development Plan (IDP) meeting in the City Hall on 14 March.
A resident who identified himself as Michael said the roads in his area were “just falling apart”. He had emailed the municipality for three months to ask them to fix a broken manhole cover without any response.
“Livestock are trashing the streets. There is a stormwater drain clogged with vegetation that has never been removed. The rubbish behind the City Hall is a health hazard, and I report water leaks continuously” said a resident who identified herself as June, an environmental and social activist.
A resident who identified herself as Susan said the municipality had failed to notify residents about water outages. “My concern is that this is not so much integrated development planning, but an acknowledgment every now and again of integrated development chaos,” she said.
Susan added that IDP meetings should not be always filled with complaints about “overflowing sewers on our doorsteps”. She also reminded the meeting that former Parks manager, Fundile “Jeff” Budaza, had been assassinated last year, allegedly over his battle against corruption, and queried whether it was safe for municipal officials to blow the whistle on financial irregularities.
Resident Helen Holleman of Ward Eight said she was “extremely concerned” that diarrhea-causing Campylobacter bacteria had been found in the streams in Makhanda. It could be spread further by free-roaming livestock who wander through the town defecating, Holleman said.
“I saw the dogs eating that fecal matter. They play with kids and the transfer of that is simply horrendous. I want to know where Ubuntu is that you don’t care about the citizens whose lives you are supposed to be making better?” Holleman queried.
Advocate and resident Sylvester Jewel said the municipality could face a class action lawsuit over their practices of estimating municipal bills, undercharging, and then overcharging and penalizing residents. The majority of ratepayers in the town had experienced this problem for several years, he said.
A resident and attorney who identified herself as Raeesa agreed, speaking out against the municipality’s inaccurate meter readings and warning that residents’ municipal debts prescribe after three years. “You are looking at a lot of loss and irrecoverable debt. Readings need to be done timeously, accurately, and regularly” she said.
Rhodes university Computer Science lecturer and resident Philip Machanick said residents were switching to solar power and the municipality would lose valuable revenue as a result.
“If you don’t have good governance, if you don’t have a clean audit, then you don’t have proper financial controls. You have corruption. We will have the same issues next year if you don’t fix the systemic and structural problems,” Machanick said.
Municipal manager Phumelelo Kate agreed that livestock should not be allowed to wander freely through the town.
“It cannot be business as usual when we see animals roaming the street,” Kate said. He also promised to end traffic violations in the town centre.