Nearly every conversation started with ‘I believe you have no water.’ That can be quite a downer. The destructive power of the negative is just amazing.
Makana has always had its problems. Why did Colonel Graham even stop in here? Did he fall off his horse? Or was it just that he wanted to give his children a decent education? He must have been quite bonkers.
But that’s our heritage and we cannot change it. Unless we want to re-establish our lives at the bottom of Howieson’s Poort, that is.
For some odd reason I was recently asked to address a ‘ Conversation’ facilitated by the Grahamstown Business Forum. This is what I had to say.
Irrespective of what the old South African text books may tell you about the 1820 Settlers, Grahamstown should never have grown beyond another dusty dorp. However along came the rafts of clerics, academics, civil servants and workers. Yes, people are the natural resource of Makana. Not much else.
Today Statistics SA tells us Makana has 80 390 citizens. About 20 000 are children under 14 years of age and most of them are on grants. 32, 5% or about 26 000 are unemployed. The youth unemployment rate is at a staggering level of 42%.
So more than 46 000 of the 80 390 Makana citizens, (58%) have virtually nothing. Add in the elderly and it gets even more depressing.
SARS statistics now shows that the privileged of Makana are 7 398 and are the taxpayers who collectively earn around R1, 5 billion/pa and pay about R250 million/pa in personal income tax. They have an average income of around R202 000/pa. Going by the national average about 700 citizens earn over R500 000/pa.
If one factors in all forms of government subsidy received in Makana the total must greatly exceed the contributions made by its taxpayers. The Makana community could never stand on its own.
But that’s the negative stuff we all love to dwell on. The question is ‘what are we going to do about it?
Some say that the municipality and government must come up with the vision and money to provide prosperity for all. If you believe that Pack for Perth right now!
If the Makana municipality and government could contain its vision, mission and limited resources to sorting out the infrastructural problems that would be worth a great deal. Thereafter its quest should be primarily focuses on addressing the massive problems of inequality and poverty.
The vision and mission for a prosperous Grahamstown has to come from its leaders. The attitude has got to change from dwelling on the negative to a spirit of co-operation and ‘Yes we can!’
Makana has more resources than most and is actually a privileged community compared to the lot of most of rural South Africa. In particular, Makana probably has more BRAINS per square kilometer than anywhere else in rural South Africa. We just don’t seem to be able to co-ordinate the resource.
We also need to dwell on a bit of Grahamstown history.
A gaggle of academics established Rhodes University. The money from the Rhodes will just bought a building. The community of Grahamstown started the monument project 50 years ago and then government paid for most of it. Guy Butler and friends started a festival and when it worked, the money followed in from all quarters. The consistent factor is that ideas are worthless, but when ideas are out into action the funding of donors, banks, government and business will soon follow.
Perhaps the suggestion is a Makana Codesa. A project where all of Makana’s stakeholders are locked in a room until they can haggle out sustainable solutions. It worked in getting us to the new SA and, with a spirit of co-operation and goodwill there is no reason why it shouldn’t work again. If we leave our egos at the door, that is.
So while parliament is failing to engage the true enemy we had better get on with it or there will be no winners.
Here are some other links to get us thinking: