The journey continues for Makhanda / Grahamstown

I attended the first Makhanda Stakeholder Imbizo on Tuesday hosted by Rhodes Vice-Chancellor, Dr Sizwe Mabizela. As the effervescent Richard Gayyba put it, our city is hanging on a cliff-edge. By the end of the day we had lifted ourselves, walked some way together and now stand at the foot of a rather large mountain. A bit like climbing and foot-slogging out of the Great Fish River valley and heading into the mountains. Warm applause to organisers, speakers and delegates from across our town.

Heart-warming and crisply analytical words from Mpumelelo Ncwadi. Widely travelled and internationally educated he began by reminiscing about his mother and childhood. A mud-hut overlooking the Great Fish river. A mere 3 km from the murky waters but a long walk to collect unfiltered water. Mpumelelo qualified as an engineer. Inspired by the needs of his mother, and many others like her.

Prof Harry Dugmore (did you know he’s one of the original Madam & Eve team?) fired us up to the potential of “The Monument” as a museum to all our ancestors. As he, an 1820 Settler descendent put it, all ancestors did much to be admired, but also much to be ashamed of. He referenced various similar themed museums across the world that draw thousands of tourists. Imagine what 300 tourists a day would do for B&B’s etc. I believe the Apartheid Museum gets 5,000 tourists a day. The Monument (often times devoid of life) is the place to house such a commemoration to all our ancestors.

Further interesting fact about Harry. His Great Grandfather Dugmore translated the bible to the IsiXhosa.

Mayor Msukisi Mpahiwa came across open and transparent. Sincere and mindful. A bit like the chairman of the golf club reporting to members after an horrendous year of slow, inconsistent, fungi-infected greens. He’s addressing the situation and next year will be much better. He is a politician and, like my good friend Ayanda Kota (his speech was excellent), I’m more than a little vexed by the performance of politicians across the world. But I was captivated by Mayor Msukusi. He’s rolled up his sleeves and taking action. Acutely aware of the challenges and impact (on many) of the Makana Municipality but also our collective performance.

It was a great day. Much goodwill and laying the foundations of trust. I look forward with confidence to the post-Imbizo process. Prof Owen Skae and his team at the Rhodes Business School are playing a central role in marshalling the process. Effective communication and cohesion required in formulating a vision, strategy and plan acceptable to all. Major themes were our potential as a (bigger) centre of education excellence and ramping up our credentials as a centre for creative industries.

Importantly we can all play a role. All those who hold Grahamstown / Makhanda dear and wish to see us flourish. We hold the future in our hands. All of us. In this time of national and international uncertainty and turmoil, our thoughts, words and deeds are paramount. Crucial that we promote a positive narrative about our present state and future potential. Everything that is great about living, working and studying in Grahamstown / Makhanda. Let’s promote the best of Grahamstown / Makhanda and work constructively to overcome our challenges.

Happy International Beer Day to you all. Support local. Drink Featherstone Brewery!


Before moving back to Grahamstown in Oct 2017, Graeme was a bank executive based in the big smoke and craziness of Joburg. He has 20 years’ experience in the Payments Industry. He is a Chartered Accountant, has a Masters in Management by Research (MMR) from Wits Business School, and attended an Advanced Management Programme (AMP) offered by INSEAD (The Business School for the World!) in France.  

Graeme is the founder of The Grahamstown Project. It’s simple. He says, “Grahamstown is a microcosm of South Africa. If we can’t get this place to function properly then the whole country is stuffed. Many of the troubles we experience as a country today have their roots here in Grahamstown. it is here where black and white people first engaged in conflict on the African continent. It is here where 9 wars of dispossession over 100 years took place and virtually destroyed the amaXhosa nation. But we are where we are. I don’t have a British passport and the boat-trip back to where my ancestors came from is exorbitantly expensive. Furthermore, this is my home. I am a son of Africa. We must work together to redress the injustices of the past and move as one into a brighter future.”

Graeme is an avid historian, writer, vlogger and public speaker. Like and follow the Facebook page. Join him on a tour. Contact him. He would love that.