Residents of Grahamstown (Makhanda) are up in arms at collapsed service delivery in the small city, with a growing sector of the community calling for residents to divert their rates payments into a separate bank account.
The Unemployed Peoples’ Movement (UPM) is one of the loudest voices advocating for a rates “redeployment”, with UPM’s Ayanda Kota saying they have been left with no choice.
“We have tried meetings, constitutional interventions, protest. We’ve tried to improve things through the courts. Nothing works.
“Perhaps withholding rates will bring change,” Kota said.
In what turned out to be fiery public debate this week, residents denounced the Makana municipality and its council for inefficiency and failed service delivery.
The city’s decrepit water and sewerage infrastructure has resulted in massive leaks of both fresh treated water, and sewage flowing down suburban roads and past schools.
Uncollected rubbish decomposes in piles on every street in Grahamstown east and informal rubbish dumps have multiplied across the city.
The roads are potholed; cattle, donkeys and other stray animals wander unchecked in roads, including national and regional roads such as the N2 which circumnavigate the city.
Disadvantaged areas in Grahamstown east are particularly hard hit on all fronts and suffer prolonged water outages.
It is almost the last refuge of the bucket system, and failure by the municipality to remove sewage leads to people emptying buckets in street gutters.
The poorly treated water has resulted in people suffering stomach bugs and massive sores across their bodies.
But, while some feel their last resort is a rates boycott, Public Service Accountability Monitor director Jay Kruuse spoke out strongly against it.
“It will make matters worse. Many courts in SA, including the Constitutional Court, have criticized residents who take the law into their own hands.”
During the debate, Makana mayor Nomhle Gaga said rates accounted for about 20% of the R334m collected annually by Makana and a boycott would hinder the municipality’s ability to provide reliable services.