Last February, a sub-committee called Pro-Action was established within the Ratepayers’ Association to fast-track specific projects.
The two primary projects tackled during this term were:
Supporter Membership Affiliation:
A resolution to introduce a Supporter affiliation to the Plett Ratepayers’ Association was circulated to RA members last September and was passed with an overwhelming response. Anyone can join Supporters who share our interest in how municipal funds are spent and who want to ensure clean governance. Whether they are a homeowner or renter, and from any of the communities within Bitou, we welcome their support. The intent is to broaden our support base and be representative of all communities within Bitou. Supporters can sign up for free or pay a small donation of their choice. The project was kicked off in October and we have 83 Supporters signed up so far, however, the activity is still in its early stages.
Currently the Ratepayers’ Association monitors the performance of Councillors and officials in an effort to ensure that standards are properly met. When corruption and poor performance are detected, the RA investigates and discusses its findings in a publicized report. By these means, supplemented by litigation and complaints to Province, it endeavours to mobilize public opinion and secure official intervention. The process is, by its very nature, reactive and the outcome, functionally, is only effective to the extent that the sensibilities of officialdom are engaged and provoked.
Every five years, however, Councillors are required to answer for their past performance to the electorate and seek a fresh mandate for governance over the succeeding term. The more the voters know, the better they can expect their representatives to perform in the future. Since voters will seldom do the requisite research for themselves, it seems obvious that a ratepayers’ association should provide them with at least the basic information on which they make an informed decision.
This seems to go beyond practical matters such as where and when to vote, how votes will be tallied and so on, and to encompass details of at least the identity and credentials of the candidates and the platforms on which they stand.
The RA is bound by its Constitution which says in Section 3: “The Association shall be non-party political and non-racial.” to which we must comply and present our report accordingly.
To circulate only the information mentioned above, useful as it is, is to pass up an opportunity to shape the composition of the Council. By these means the RA, acting proactively, can endeavour to ensure that there is less corruption, wrongdoing, and maladministration in Bitou and concomitantly less for the RA to do. Therefore, the RA published an article detailing the “job expected of a councillor” and “the required skills of a councillor.” Coupled with this was the intent to interrogate the performance of current Councillors and their political parties and by doing so remind them that they are the ratepayers’ servants, not their masters. The consequence of such an approach would be a greater level of conscientiousness, transparency and accountability from Councillors in the upcoming term.
It was initially hoped that the voter education project would take the form of town hall meetings and allow the candidates to showcase their skills and abilities and provide a platform for them to express their plans and policies for the term and to offer the public an opportunity to properly understand the candidates’ qualifications to be a councillor. That proved to be over-ambitious because of the uncertainty around the election date and Covid protocols. That left the committee with Plan B where the committee tried to interview and obtain relevant information from all the candidates. This proved an almost impossible task, particularly in respect of the two major parties not responding to our invitation to submit their manifestos and the necessary information on their candidates.
In the end we managed to connect with a few of the smaller role players.: Bitou Concerned Residents, Patriotic Alliance, Ikhwezi Political Movement, Organic Humanity Movement, Plett Democratic Congress and Good Party. We thank them for their openness and responsiveness, and we sincerely hope that those who made it onto council will continue to exhibit the traits of openness, responsiveness, and will add the third leg of accountability to their repertoire.
New Projects in 2022. Potential new projects in the New Year which interested members are invited to participate in include: