Civil society is small city’s bomb disposal squad

An article by Jeff Peires on legal attempts to improve local governance in Makana has drawn responses from the city of saints

12 July 2020 - 00:00 By PHILIP MACHANICK

Jeff Peires, in “A small-city time bomb with a big legal agenda” (June 28), makes a number of points that need to be answered. He makes an issue of the name of my organisation (which he gets wrong): “Grahamstown (sic) Ratepayers Association (GRA)”. It is a residents’, not a ratepayers’, association. We have not changed the name because the change to Makhanda is being challenged in the courts and we await finality. There is nothing sinister in this: the local branch of the high court, for example, is still the Grahamstown high court. Once all legal challenges are exhausted, we will get to it — but in the meantime there are more urgent matters to attend to, like Covid-19.

On to factual errors. The 22,000 signatories in the petition represent 90% of the number who voted in the last municipal elections, not 90% of voters. This is a pretty impressive number and made it impossible for me not to support the campaign. What I find most remarkable about this petition is that the government never formally acknowledged it — though they did soon after replacing the mayor. Concerned Citizens to Save Makana presumably refers to the Concerned Citizens Committee to Save Makana, an informal grouping that in 2017 pressed for the appointment of a turnaround manager and did not organise the petition —  though in a small city the same personalities tend to pop up. The CCCSM campaign resulted in the secondment of Ted Pillay from Sarah Baartman regional municipality as acting municipal manager in the first half of 2018...

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