Monday in Makhanda

An interesting start to 2020. Ground-breaking court judgement, onwards with the Circle of Unity programme, and the joy of verdant-green shoots brought by rain at last.

We are most grateful for the rain. Cousin (by marriage) Benjamin Pringle has finally shaved his austere, drought-protesting mustache. The Pringle family sheep-farming operation (nearly 200 years) can weather all manner of human induced storms but sheep eat grass, grass needs water, and deep in the Mankazana Valley, water comes from the sky.

We, the residents of Makhanda (formerly Grahamstown), receive our water mostly from the Great Fish river. The Fish is a short drive out of town on the N2 to East London.

Makhanda and his warriors ran the distance the night before their ill-fated attack on the British Army garrison in Grahamstown on 22 April 1819.

Geographically, the source of the Fish is the mostly dry mountains east of Graaff-Reinett near Hofmeyr. Historically, the Fish was little more than a trickle during dry periods. Thanks to the industry and labour of man (series of dams and tunnels) the main source is now the snow-capped peaks of Lesotho.

The Great Fish is perennially in flood yet the taps in Makhanda often run dry. Top ‘n Tail bathing using kettle heated rain-tank water for us this morning! For many of the poorest of the poor when the taps do run it’s pure Orange River water filtered by Karoo dust. Really not that difficult to provide reliable and clean water to the residents of Makhanda.

Judge Igna Stretch (there’s a proud surname from the history books) ruled on Tuesday that the Makana Municipality has failed over many years to deliver services (water, sanitation, waste management etc) to residents. Her Ladyship ruled the Council be dissolved, an Administrator appointed (by the Premier of the EC, Oscar Mabuyane) and elections held within 3 months. The application was brought by Ayanda Kota, Chairperson of the Unemployed People’s Movement. UPM represents the poorest of the poor. Go figure. Hats off to you Ayanda and team!

I understand the ANC will appeal. Shameful but that’s politics. When elections do come those responsible will feel it at the ballot box. Perhaps not to the fullest extent they deserve but until the political will, governance and business-minded action is felt by the community, trust in them will continue to erode. Eventually to dust.

Meanwhile, the Circle of Unity continues as that. Community members who see past the politics and work together to build a brighter future for all. I’m part of the Local Economic Development cluster. ANC Counsellors (understandably absent from Friday’s meeting), dedicated Municipal officials, Educators, Students, Business people, and leaders of Civic organisations building relationships and agreeing strategies and projects to build the economic development potential of our precious little city. We are most grateful too for the wise input and support of the Kagiso Trust.

That’s it friends. A fresh new week in Makhanda. Schools are back, the place is buzzing (refer photo of recent schools festival of cricket) and our pot-holes (and rain tanks) filled with water.

Looking further ahead, Vanessa and I have started our training for the GBS Mountain Drive Half-marathon. Loving getting fitter and looking forward to that most beautiful of half-marathons in August! Little birdie tells me that a number of prominent local residents are similarly in training for this magical community event! Anyone else out there up for the challenge?


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.