The city of Makhanda, formerly Grahamstown, is home to the National Arts Festival, Rhodes University, a nest of private and public schools, and a regional high court. It should be a lodestar for the impoverished Eastern Cape. Instead, headlines for the city’s first quarter of 2019 make for grim reading. In February, open sewage swilled around the feet of residents in the east of Makhanda. With no potable water accessible due to throttling at the water treatment plant, the arrival of Gift of the Givers’ water trucks seemed messianic. Then rubbish collectors embarked on a two-month stayaway. A month later, Eskom threatened 14-hour daily power cuts because of Makhanda’s municipality, Makana, continually defaulting on debt repayment plans.

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