Grahamstown locals have become increasingly familiar with the obstacle course-like challenge of navigating a route through the city’s streets. A sensation that Grahamstown motorists know all too well is bumping through yet another hole in the tar, while hoping their wheels haven’t been destroyed.
Heather Cameron talks to local resident Thomas Stone, who decided it was time for action.
Roads across the city of saints are riddled with potholes and our streets have progressively become an embarrassing mess.
At the end of September Thomas Stone, a local resident, decided it was time for citizens to act by holding the Makana Municipality accountable.
Hoping to incite positive action, Stone set up the Holey City Grahamstown Facebook page as a space for residents to vent and discuss the decay and neglect of our city.
“One Friday night last month, when we were closing up shop [Country Fresh Foods on Hill Street], I heard yet another car go through the huge pothole in the middle of the street. I just said I’d had enough,” Stone said.
“I thought if they could start a revolution in Egypt with Facebook, then we could start our own revolution in Grahamstown with Facebook,” he added, referencing the 2011 Arab Spring.
Set up on 29 September, the Facebook page has 286 likes and counting. Stone likes to think of these likes as ‘dislikes’ because the page addresses a problematic situation in Grahamstown.
“[The page] is a fun way of showing we’ve got a problem … It’s a positive groundswell of people expressing their views,” he said.
Stone updates the page regularly with information and pictures about Grahamstown’s decline. The most popular posts are the pictures of his creative “gardening” in what he calls “Central Park Grahamstown”.
The page displays images of Stone’s guerrilla gardening efforts – he plants trees in the potholes, or fills them with objects like traffic cones and actual pot plants (get it?).
Locals have responded positively to Stone beautifying the city’s potholes with supportive comments popping up all over the Facebook page.
Stone’s aim of eliciting action from the municipality through positive action has actually succeeded in producing a reaction, “When I did the first pot plant, the municipality arrived the next day to fill in the pothole.”
Unfortunately for the community, most of the repairs have been temporary. The potholes are only being filled in with materials like gravel or sand which means the holes soon reappear.
This is the case with the huge pothole outside Country Fresh Foods. “I asked one of the workers who came to repair the Hill Street pot hole why they didn’t perform more permanent repairs,” Stone said, “He said that the municipality has no tar.”
The municipality’s alleged lack of tar and short-term repair solutions have led to potholes becoming more prevalent on roads across Grahamstown.
Stone believes the real problem lies with “public servants not serving the public anymore. They’re just there to have a cushy job because they’re not actually doing what they’re supposed to.”
“We as citizens must hold them accountable … because we are the ones that walk around embarrassed and it’s our cars that [are damaged].”
When asked what he would say to the municipality’s leadership if given the chance, Stone thought for a minute before replying, “I’d say they must remember that they’re public servants and it’s their job to look after the town. We’ve got a beautiful city and it’s not too late. Let’s fix it.”