By: Thozi Ngeju, Community Coordinator
Lot’s of rain lately, but the Makana situation is still Eish 2-O.
That is, water, water, everywhere – except where we need it most, the taps. However, we live in the age of technology. So we may as well take full advantage of how quickly that helps communications flow to and fro.
In May 2012 I became involved with MobiSAM. Until the end of 2014 the application helped negotiate a steady flow of communication between the Makana Municipality and the residents.
Funding obliged the application to go into hiatus until April 2016. Rekindling a relationship with Municipal officials has been relatively easy. Thanks mainly to some civil service clean up at City Hall.
However, one of the key challenges we now face is regaining the residents’ faith in the use and application of MobiSAM.
They have become wary of fly-by-nights. Some even said as much in Ward 10 during our baseline study conducted earlier this year. Therefore, how we hold ourselves around those we should be helping will decide the impact of MobiSAM.
The National Arts Festival hydro-drama was challenging enough. At least the Communications Division of our Municipality was very proactive. Call it saving face, but it really was some motivated officials taking their jobs seriously. Using the technologies available to them and keeping in close contact with MobiSAM, Makana was able to deliver regular updates on the repair processes as it developed. Connections between MobiSAM, Makana Municipality and Civil Society Organisations such as the Grahamstown Resident’s Association enabled a steady flow of information to residents via mainly facebook as is evident here.
Where to from here?
While MobiSAM is in our direct management, we need to show it is a useful communication tool. We also need to prove we are good mediators between citizens and civil servants. One way of doing this is being on the ground as often as possible and open to constructive criticism. It is very difficult for me as a local resident to have to always justify why so&so who came with this great project suddenly disappeared when they got their academic qualifications.
MobiSAM is training the Makana Municipality personnel on how to use the start-up. That is another step in the right direction. That, at least, shows it is to the benefit of the community and the elected. Another source of concern for me is when the community ask and do not get satisfactory responses:
“I’ve reported a broken pipe five times to the municipality. Five times council workers came but they were always drunk. So, they did not do the job properly each time. How can MobiSAM help in that regard?” – paraphrasing a participant during the TradingLIVE event at ADC, 25/07/2016
More to the point, MobiSAM needs to be pragmatic, but not standoffish or uptight in its interactions. There are as many methods of approaching the community as there are ways of them receiving our calls to register when the launch date arrives.
In a nutshell, MobiSAM came about because of a water crisis. It was not well received initially. That was not because it was not well planned, but we tried to sell it during a very turbulent phase in our local government’s calendar. They have stabilised now. They have verve that the use of technology can only prop up so long as the recipients – the community – understand the advantages of social accountability monitoring.