‘I’m happy. Things are on track’

2012-02-11 16:12

When Bongokuhle Miya wrote on President Jacob Zuma’s Facebook page last year asking for help for Umzimkhulu, he didn’t have high hopes. In fact, by the time Zuma mentioned his complaint about drains, sewerage and stray animals in his state of the nation speech, Miya was already in the Eastern Cape, studying.

The 20-year-old trainee traditional healer got the surprise of his life when he found out his concerns made it into the president’s yearly address.

“When they called me I was away and only returned here in December. I was so happy to see that they started work,’’ he said. “I’m positive about the town’s future. I believe that service delivery is there but if the delivery rate improves we will be in a better position. I think things are on track.”

So what did he ask Zuma to do this year? “Nothing. I wrote saying thank you and expressed my appreciation.’’

When City Press visited the town on Thursday, workers were busy with the sewerage and draining projects Miya asked for in his hometown on the border of KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape. A water treatment plant outside town – which has suffered during border disputes with KwaZulu-Natal whose underdeveloped bastard child the town now is – is complete. On the outskirts, a municipal pound for stray animals – a major problem for motorists – is nearly finished.

The projects, residents say, began in September and October and were accompanied by a programme to beautify the town. The pace picked up as Zuma’s speech approached – the town’s main street is full of earth moving machinery, pavements and pipelines are being dug up, and there’s a general sense of industry about its business sector.

There’s still a very long way to go: streets are badly potholed, water supply is erratic, and thousands of residents are without electricity. The jury is still out on whether recent council and staff changes will translate into better delivery.

Maliq Sissoko, a Senegalese immigrant living here for 10 years, said conditions were improving.

“You can see things are happening,’’ he said, pointing to the sewerage works behind his used-clothing stall.

“I am a stranger in this country but I can see something happening.’’

Not everybody is so complimentary. Busisiwe Mkhize has been selling mealies just before the Umzimkhulu River bridge since the 80s.

“At home we have no water, no electricity. We have to pay for licences to sell mealies here on the roadside but when we want anything we have to go to Ixopo,” she said.

“I don’t see what has gotten better here. I was sitting in the sun selling mealies then. I am sitting in the sun selling mealies now.’’

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