The 2-way radio services which are used by Bitou Municipality’s emergency services were switched off on Friday after the municipality failed, repeatedly, to pay their bills.
Henry Eybers, the owner of Garden Route Communications, has struggled to get payment for the services he has provided. He says that only 3 monthly payments were made over 18 months.
He did not make the decision lightly and only after repeated, failed attempts to sort the matter with higher-ups such as Mayor Memory Booysen and Municipal Manager Allen Paulse.
The Bitou Municipality’s failure to pay also finds them in contravention of the law – emergency services’ communications are a necessity and thus a legal requirement for local government.
The fundamental question must be why the Municipality wasn’t vigorously pursuing a solution to a fundamental service issue? The matter is made more bizarre by the lack of respect for Garden Route Communications positive involvement in the local community through the Community Policing Forum (CPF), the Plettenberg Bay Crime Prevention Association (PBCPA) and neighbourhood watches. In fact, the company’s sponsorship of 2-way radios for these endeavours is valued at R13 000p/m.
The Bitou Municipality has been embattled with scandal after scandal for years, first under the ANC and now under the DA whose mayor, Memory Booysen, has come under regular fire from frustrated ratepayers. Worsening the poor state of the administration is the recent attempt by the ANC to take over after the Deputy Mayor Adam Van Rhyner, a member of COPE, switched his kingmaker’s vote to them. Who is, in fact, in power, has become mired in a court battle. The unfortunate spin-off has been the Speaker barring Council Meetings from happening despite the ANC’s promise, in the meanwhile, to not force the takeover so that important affairs of government can be attended to. If Council meetings were taking place then it’s possible that the Bitou Municipality’s standoff with Garden Route Communications would have been sorted.
Interestingly, Henry Eybers says that Van Rhyner was the only person who tried to help but seemed to be overruled by Booysen and Paulse.