By Anga-Anganda Bushwana and Sisipho Pinyana
Unhappy and outraged residents of Makhanda vented their frustrations at a public meeting with the council at City Hall on 24 May. The council had called the meeting to present the final Integrated Development Plan (IDP) that they’d developed out of several public meetings held earlier in the year. But residents accused the council of being “blind” to the problems of the town, and of making “empty promises”.
According to resident and community activist, Philip Machanick, things in the town were going backwards, compared to the water situation in 2019 when there was an actual drought, yet the water supply was better than it is now. Machanick added that water shedding of two days off, one day on is much worse than a situation of one day water off, one day on.
Machanick questioned why pumps had broken when, in 2022, about R4.4 million was spent on two new pumps for the James Kleynhans water treatment plant. “This municipality goes through pumps faster than I go through toothbrushes. These big pumps are supposed to last at least 15 years,” he said.
Raeesa Asmal, a community member who is also an attorney at Whiteside Attorneys, asked how the municipality could justify tariff increases when they were not delivering services. She added that the magistrate’s court now only has two full working days a week, because on ‘no-water’ days, the court does not sit for a full day. “We are losing revenue, we are losing work and we cannot work this way,” said Asmal.
A resident who identified himself as Shaun said that he would avail workers to fix the potholes outside the City Hall if the municipality provided some materials. “I’m doing this because I can see that the Municipality is blind,” Shaun said.
Other points that residents raised at the meeting were finding ways to develop the local economy, and bring people to Makhanda year-round – not just for the National Arts Festival. But residents also pondered: with the massive potholes, who is going to want to create jobs and invest in this town?
The municipality’s director of Infrastructure, Asanda Gidana, repeated that water-shedding was being implemented because the municipality could not supply enough water until phase 2 of the James Kleynhans Treatment Works upgrade was completed. Gidana said there was a blockage between the dam wall of Howieson Poort and the pump station. “Unfortunately we have not been able to identify where the blockage is and we are making attempts to identify this, in terms of bringing in divers,” said Gidana.
She added that there would be a further, intensive investigation by Amatola Water and other experts who had advanced expertise.