Chairman’s ReportApril 4, 2023
Communications surrounding Plett Business Chamber’s invitation to attend a meeting at the municipalityApril 5, 2023
We appreciated all the residents and ratepayers who attended the Plett Ratepayers’ AGM on 29 March and who showed their support.
There were some questions asked during the Q&A session for which we would like to provide some clarity and address.
1. A comment was made by senior municipal official Mr. Felton that the Ratepayers’ Association did not attend a meeting at the municipality to which we were invited by the Business Chamber. This was an attempt to suggest that the Ratepayers were not willing to collaborate with other organizations in Plett. The facts are that past chairman Peter Gaylard received an invitation the day before the meeting, with no agenda. Peter responded same day that he was on his way to Cape Town and would be unable to attend, and since there was no agenda, he had no knowledge of the purpose of the meeting in order to send another delegate, so he sent his apologies. He also mentioned that we had a meeting with the municipality already set up for four days hence, we have regular scheduled meetings with agendas provided in advance, but appreciated the invitation. The correspondence is posted on the www.plettratepayers.co.za
2. A comment was made by a member of the audience that we are uncooperative with the municipality and did not invite Swart to the AGM. As mentioned in Steve Pattinson’s Chairman’s Report, our relationship is naturally going to be challenging as part of our oversight role. The fact is that our new chairman had been in constant contact with the mayor during the preceding days and had requested input from the Mayor and CFO so that we could provide a balanced view on achievements and challenges. Steve Pattinson is working with the municipality to achieve better communication and minimize tension where possible but the municipality has to want to cooperate on good governance.
3. Senior municipal official Victor Felton said the RPA had exaggerated the insolvency claim. The August financials in the council agenda said “we cannot continue to cover our financial obligations,” which was confirmed by the Audit Committee. Later in September, the council presented a Voluntary Financial Recovery Plan. So his comment that Bitou does not have a financial crisis does not hold water. Our references to the financial situation come directly from their monthly accounts. In addition despite our requests, we have still not seen January and February accounts.
4. The disposal of property issue was raised, but not fully explained. We have managed to get an extension to the full 30 days as required, but the mayor is still defending the council’s right to sell property without a full public participation process. We are at a loss as to why all 17 properties have been grouped together as every ward’s properties are different. You will see our response shortly to the second notice in which there are a number of unanswered questions.
5. Situation on water restrictions. Our members were greatly concerned about water restrictions and wanted clarity on the driving factors behind the decision for level 1 restrictions. Our EXCO board member gave an understanding that the low levels of water in the Roodefontein dam were primarily due to a breakdown with a pump and equipment. Mr Felton was unable to add further clarity but it was concerning that Level 2 restrictions were communicated after the AGM. We will be responding to this Level 2 restriction notice and will attempt to explain causes and actions required to mitigate.
Martin Brassey’s comments.
Martin Brassey SC commented at the AGM on the following:
- Mayoral car matter has been scheduled in the Cape High Court for 16 August. The matter, which argues against providing dedicated vehicles for the mayor, deputy or speaker, has national significance and could potentially save ratepayers millions of rands.
- Overpayment of municipal salaries is awaiting a court date. The RA’s contention is that salaries are above the legislated limits and have no need to be.
- Accountability and responsiveness: the RA struggles with the municipality because the officials and councillors do not understand our rights to receiving information on how our money is being spent, and the lack of openness leads to mistrust and misinformation.
- An ombudsman service, which is quick and affordable dispute resolution for the public where they interface with local government, would provide residents and ratepayers with an option to sorting out their municpal problems, such as with municipal accounts, that stems from a lack of responsiveness from the municipality.
- Observer status. The Association’s request to the municipality for observer status over senior management appointments is a legitimate request. It complies with participative government and openness. The officials should welcome it rather than refusing.
Resolutions were passed to:
- continue the dues at R600 pa
- approve the 2021 AGM minutes
- approve the 2022 treasury report
- approve the slate of 2023 EXCO members: Steve Pattinson, Jonathan Cawood, Stuart Comline, Genevieve Frost, Peter Gaylard, Debi Nicholson, Peter Pyke, Len Swimmer, Ted Waldenburg, Barry Walters, John Williams.