The National Arts Festival (of which Wordfest is a part) is one of the signatories to a public statement that was issued in May 2019 by institutions, NGOs and businesses, stating that despite the town’s challenges, Makhanda is open for business and ready to host the thousands of visitors expected over the next couple of months.
The full text of the statement is as follows:
We, the undersigned businesses, institutions, schools, NGOs and community of Makhanda (formerly Grahamstown):
Having noted the recent media coverage of the impasse between Makana Municipality and humanitarian organisation, the Gift of the Givers, we urge both sides to keep talking to find a resolution that is fair and equitable and, most of all, that serves the best interests of the people of Makhanda.
The media coverage has, inevitably turned the spotlight onto the state of management of our town and has stimulated discussion around many of the issues that those who live in Makhanda, and other small towns in South Africa, grapple with on a daily basis. 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. On the other hand, though, we believe that there is another story to be told that risks being lost in the coverage, and it is this: More than ever before, the residents, schools, institutions, NGOs and businesses who call Makhanda home have risen to our daily challenges in a way that is powerful and humbling, and augers well for a prosperous future for all.
Our message is clear: we are open for business. Makhanda is home to one of the finest universities on the continent; some of the best and most prestigious schools; and hosts extraordinary festivals that remain “bucket list” events for most South Africans. It is also home to some of the most important heritage sites. 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.
So far this year: Over 2300 students graduated from Rhodes University in six ceremonies, and the graduation ceremonies were live streamed to local schools, just as nearly 20 000 young learners and their teachers took part in the annual Scifest Africa. 1 000 Makana choristers shared the stage with Vusi Mahlasela in our Masicule celebration. We have hosted thousands of tourists and visitors in our guesthouses and hotels.
In a few weeks’ time Kingswood College, celebrating its 125th year, will be hosting the iconic derby sports day with St Andrews College and Diocesan School for Girls. This event is expected to attract 10 000 alumni from those institutions to join in the celebrations. Shortly after that, the National Arts Festival, one of the world’s most admired festivals and the continent’s biggest arts event, will raise the curtain for the 45th time.
These milestones and events show some of the mettle, resilience and determination to succeed that is embedded in the Eastern Cape DNA. And they are the lifeblood of our community, providing much needed employment and contributing to the quality of life we still enjoy. 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. We make sure that our visitors, and our residents, want for nothing as they gather during these celebrations.
Parallel to that, we remain committed to finding solutions for the long-term management of our town, partnering with everyone, every sphere of government, and every NGO and institution that shares our passion for Makhanda and its people.
Makhanda is an amazing town to visit, live in, study and work. And we remind ourselves every day that this is a town worth investing in, and saving. We thank you for your care and empathy during this difficult period, and we look forward to welcoming you as we pledge to keep working to make things better.
Afri Temba Leisure Group, Assumption Development Centre, Brookshaw Home, Diocesan School for Girls, GADRA Education, GBS Mutual Bank, Grahamstown Business Forum, Grahamstown Foundation, Grahamstown Residents’ Association, Ikamva Youth, Kingswood College, Makana Brick, Makana Revive, Makana Tourism, National Arts Festival, Nombuleleo Secondary School, Raphael Centre, Rhodes University, St Andrew’s College, The Grahamstown Project, Upstart Youth Development