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Makhanda a pointer on what we need to fix

19 May 2019 - 00:00 By SUNDAY TIMES

Few South Africans enjoy the credibility, stamina and sheer goodness of Imtiaz Sooliman, so when the director of Gift of the Givers says he is abandoning efforts to save the people of Makhanda (Grahamstown) from their water crisis as a "matter of principle", we should pay attention. The decision to withdraw the humanitarian organisation from the Eastern Cape town came after it had spent R15m there, much of it on drilling boreholes.
Sooliman said Makana municipality, which has received R22m for drought relief from the department of water & sanitation, had paid three companies just over R10m for work actually done by Gift of the Givers, and not a cent to the charity. Given R30m, he said, he could solve Makhanda's water crisis in 10 days. Instead, he has left the town - which also owes Eskom R90m - to its own hopeless devices.
Mayor Mzukisi Mpahlwa, who took office in January promising to make water a priority, has been invisible since Sooliman's statement, and municipal manager Moppo Mene has refused to make any commitment about when, or if, Gift of the Givers will be reimbursed.
In the meantime, as Sooliman pointed out, considerable suffering is in the offing: "What I'm really worried for is the people of Makhanda."Here is an example of one of the most lamentable failures of the past 25 years: local government is almost uniformly wrecked. Only 7% of municipalities function reasonably well, co-operative governance minister Zweli Mkhize admitted last August, and the vast majority are almost dysfunctional or all the way there.President Cyril Ramaphosa has made it clear his new cabinet will focus on implementation of the National Development Plan, a widely admired document with a lot to say about the shortcomings of local government and what should be done to fix it. The plan was drafted in 2012, since when precious little progress has been made towards realising "Vision 2030".Focus is desperately needed, and this week's Makhanda episode can provide some vital pointers...

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