Grahamstown. Picture: WIKIMEDIA
Grahamstown. Picture: WIKIMEDIA

My wife and I had the very good fortune to attend Rhodes University in the early 1970s, in Grahamstown,  a beautiful tree-lined, well-governed university town that attracted students, scholars, businesses and tourists. Of course, that was during the evil apartheid regime when the black population was ostracised and deprived, but at least half the town “worked” and residents had access to services.

It is now one of 87 “dysfunctional” ANC municipalities identified countrywide, and according to Richard Gaybba, chair of the Grahamstown Business Forum, has lacked adequate water, sanitation and electricity for years.

There have been consequences: 18 businesses have closed in the last 18 months; there is 80% unemployment; parents are sending their children to other universities and schools; tour buses no longer visit; the future of the revenue-boosting National Arts Festival is in doubt; a R50m municipal surplus in 1994 is now a R250m deficit; and  the private sector and volunteers are having to do the council’s work.

Gaybba says corruption and incompetence have destroyed the town. Appeals to the ANC to form a public-private partnership to revive the city have fallen on deaf ears — the demand is that “you give us the money and we’ll do it our way”.

I have avoided reference to the fact that Grahamstown is now called Makhana, as why would this presumably honourable man want his name besmirched by this now derelict town? It is a sad tale that is replicated in many ANC-governed cities across SA.

Ironically, those who voted for the council are the primary losers.

John Perry