With the upcoming elections on August 3, the Barrat lecture theatre hosted the Makana Municipal Elections Debate on July 27. This was a joint venture between Radio Grahamstown, Rhodes Music Radio, Grocott’s Mail and Rhodes University Department of Politics and International Studies.
The Chair of the evening, Xolani Kondile, introduced the event by explaining that the debate “is part of the departments teach in which has been taking place throughout this week focussing on the local government elections. Kondile went on to say that “this is the last chance to get some of your questions answered […] our panel here is ready to listen to what you have to say and to deal with the issues that are important to you.” The audience largely made of UCKAR (University Currently Known as Rhodes) students.
The candidates present were Lena May (Independent), Jock McConnachie (Independent), Sabelo Bill (EFF), Bongani Diko (AZAPO), Darryn Holm (DA), and Mthobisi Buthelezi (ANC). The candidates mainly failed to adhere to the theme of the debate “which [was] to improve service delivery, eliminating corruption and making Grahamstown a decent place to live and work” and not for political point scoring. The debate began with each of the candidates giving their opening statement.
May’s opening statement
May said that “I am standing for re-election as an independent candidate in my own right. In deciding to do so I asked myself, why I did became a councillor in the first place? Was it to serve the interest of a political party? … Or was it serve my community? The answer was undoubtedly the latter which is why I am keen to continue my important work as a councillor.”
McConnachie’s opening statement
McConnachie explained how he was a proud old Rhodian despite not being a member of UCKAR. The audience became rowdy when McConnachie said “if you are a current Rhodian then shame on you.” At which point the chairperson had to intervene. He continued to explain that he no longer associates himself with any political party as he believes“ that the party’s, the political parties doesn’t matter which one they are, are the cause of the problems in local government hence I am standing as an independent candidate for ward 8.”
Bill’s opening statement
After McConnachie, Bill made his opening address. He said that “we are not here to make promises but are here to commit ourselves in changing and improving Makana. We are here so that we can do away with corruption within Makana and give service delivery to everyone that resides in Makana.”
Diko’s opening statement
Diko spoke in Xhosa when addressing the audience. He raised the question of “how do we bring about the dignity of the black person?” Diko explained that “the system destroys the dignity of a black man, AZAPO is here to change that, we are tired of people not having land.”
Holm’s opening statement
Holm opened with a biting remark about McConnachie when he said that “it is very clear why Jock is standing here as an independent it’s because no one else wants him.” He went on to say that “South Africans have a choice to make. You can either chose the same old status quo of corruption, empty promises, poor service delivery and high levels of unemployment. Or you can choose the radical change that the DA lead government can bring to this country. The DA is honest, it is responsive, it will stop corruption, it will not cut or put it down, [the DA] will completely destroy it.”
Buthelezi’s opening statement
Buthelezi began by summarizing the ANC’s manifesto into three major phases. When discussing the first phase Buthelezi said that “we can say that what was in this country is definitely a different phase from what is in this country. And also what is in this country we must be able to be honest enough to admit that it is not where we want it to be.”
Questions raised by the audience
Then the debate was opened to the floor and people were allowed to ask the candidates questions. Mr Holm had the most questions directed at him which were related to “how” the DA would change things and whether the DA would be able to equally represent black people in Makana. Holm responded by accusing the ANC of dividing people based on race. He said that people were still oppressed because they did not believe that a black person could lead (referring to Mmusi Maimane). Holm said that the DA was a “a multi diverse party.” His statement was contradicted by a number of accusations from audience members who stated that the DA favoured white people and had not kept promises made in 2015. Holm responded by saying that his accusers were bitter former candidates.
During the debate Diko kept referring to the dignity of the black men being trampled. This prompted an audience member to ask him about his views were on women. Diko responded by saying that women were paid more than men which had divided the partnership between men and women. By the end of the debate order was out the window with accusations between the audience members and the candidates being thrown back and forth. The crowd was out of control and the people who probably suffered the most were those listening on the radio as this was a live broadcast.
From this evening it is evident that most of the candidates have not done their homework. With so many people depending on them to drive the change that is so badly needed in a municipality that has been declared one of the worst in the country. It remains to be seen which candidate will be the lesser of two evils. Come Wednesday “X” marks the spot.
Written by: Nokwanda Dlamini