Early morning in Makhanda. Pictures: Supplied/Michelle Hodgkinson
Early morning in Makhanda. Pictures: Supplied/Michelle Hodgkinson
Audience after a show at the National Arts Festival.
Audience after a show at the National Arts Festival.
Crowds watch street performers at the Standard Bank Village Green.
Crowds watch street performers at the Standard Bank Village Green.

PORT ELIZABETH – A group of interested parties have joined forces in Makhanda in the wake of a R10 million dispute between the Makana Municipality and humanitarian organisation, Gift of the Givers, over payment for a multimillion lifesaving intervention to provide water to the drought-stricken area.

The joint stakeholder statement on Thursday called on the two parties to continue talks to find a solution that is "fair and equitable" and that would "best serve the interests of the people of Makhanda".

Gift of the Givers intervened to assist the community of Makhanda (formerly Grahamstown) whose taps were running dry, which included hiring a hydrologist and digging boreholes at a heavy cost to provide a long-term solution for the town.

The parties to the statement said that the media coverage had both positive and negative effects on the town, but they were concerned that this attention could deflect from many of its achievements over the years.

"This coverage has had both a positive and negative impact. On the one hand it has spurred various organs of state into action, and we are grateful for the care and attention now being given to our town," the statement said.

Mitigating the negative impact that the impasse between the two parties might have had, the statement highlighted what the town had to offer saying: "Our message is clear: we are open for business."

The town is home to Rhodes University, which is a highly regarded academic institution, both in South Africa and internationally. It also boasts some of the best and most prestigious schools, is home to the National Arts Festival and to several heritage sites, the statement said.

"As a community, we are working tirelessly to protect these important parts of our heritage, and we are investing time, money, resources and passion into making sure they not only function, but continue to be globally competitive and attractive institutions and events.

It said the milestones and achievements were down to hard work and a "determination to succeed", but had economic and social importance as they provided employment for many who lived there. 

"Noting their economic and social importance, the private sector is galvanising to fill any gaps normally entrusted to local government. We make sure the city is attractive and functional. 

"Makhanda is an amazing town to visit, live in, study and work and ... worth investing in, and saving," said the signatories to the statement, including business groups such as Afri Temba Leisure Group and GBS Mutual Bank, as well as Rhodes University, GADRA Education, Grahamstown Residents Association, Ikamva Youth and Upstart Youth Development.

Africa News Agency (ANA)