Owing to the notable absence of the distribution of information from Knysna Municipality to the public, i attended the Mayoral meeting last Tuesday. Again, contrary to normal procedure, i wasn’t given the minutes of the meeting (despite requesting such) but, at some point, they were referenced on a big screen. These proceedings are mostly boring (for a long while, i was the only member of the public there and there were zero reporters in sight) but can sometimes offer insight into what is going to happen in the main Council Meeting (the next one is at 9am on May 29). It also provides insight into the possible, immediate future of Knysna. And some big issues did appear.
SALGA (South African Local Government Association) states that the role of the mayoral committee “is to assist and advise the executive mayor. The Executive Mayor together with the Mayoral Committee performs those powers and functions that have been designated to the Executive Mayor by the municipal Council.” Furthermore, Section 80 groups serve this committee, existing to address specific portfolios such as Community Services.
This was the first meeting without Magda Williams (59), the DA councillor who died last month. There was no mention of the by-election that needs to be held. It was also the first after the general elections. These were items on the agenda which either have to be returned to the section 80 committees or will be pushed ahead to the Council meeting where their approval will be voted upon:
- To change 22 Waterfront Drive to business rights so that a medical centre can be opened. What was disturbing was that this proposal bypassed the Section 80 committee and had landed here, begging for progression. Stephen de Vries (ANC) and Elrick van Aswegen (COPE) objected. I have no love for these councillors as they are as culpable as the DA regards issues such as Knysna Tourism and the ISDF, but many of their objections this morning would prove valid. In this case, their accusation that some matters, such as this, appeared to be fast-tracked (implying favouritism) instead of following procedure. Councillor Louise Hart (DA) said it was because there’d been no quorum because committee members repeatedly fail to turn up to meetings. It was agreed that it would head to the Section 80.
- Van Aswegen complained about the effectiveness of the Ward Committees, saying, “That some of the people in Ward Committees have been chosen by political parties. Consequently, decisions made represented the political parties rather than the citizens involved.” This has been a major complaint of mine. It’s the only possible reason why Ward 10 committee members, Dee Hollely and Kevin Grinaker, illegally refused to accept my queries. They are suppose to be representing us but have instead chosen to represent the political parties who have proven not to care about the public’s wishes.
- SPLUMA (Spatial Planning & Land Use Management Act) will majorly affect every municipality in South Africa. This appears to be a grossly poor decision by South Africa’s ANC government? Each municipality must erect a Tribunal. Effectively, these problems will likely be faced:
- Legal fees are expected to be the highest cost (not staff) as responsibility is removed from Province and placed on the Municipality i.e. instead of province being sued, litigation will be against the Knysna Council.
- Staffing costs.
- A shortage of planners nationwide as each tribunal will need them in permanent positions.
- Possible consultant conflict i.e. how do local consultants honestly serve the Council if they’re also serving local land developers?
- Big bad news is that the budget is 6% under for the forthcoming year for asset maintenance e.g. pumps, drains, roads. This is before taking into the backlog which seems unlikely to be caught up. Van Aswegen made the concern that, “When it comes to maintenance of water pumps, you can’t play with budget. It affects water. The pipes are in serious need!“ Louise Hart agreed: “That’s what i said but no one listened.” That was an important moment, a DA councillor agreeing with the opposition, seemingly against the flow of the Mayoral Committee. Grant Easton, the Director of Finance, said that, “If a pump breaks, it’ll definitely be fixed.”
- De Vries and Van Aswegen objected to the allocation of the road budget, stating that priority must be given to the roads most used (they gave an example of such poor allocation in Hornlee).
- Van Aswegen said that Mrs Paulse, wife of a previous mayor of Knysna, had been making complaints for months regarding sewage in her road but that it still hadn’t been fixed.
- Oddly, Van Aswegen said that all councillors agree that the quality of Knysna’s water is excellent and that all must get on board to make the public understand that. He commended Lauren Waring’s scathing response to the The Bad Knysna Water Letter from a homeowner in Brenton-on-Sea. Technical Services reported that the sometimes brown colour of the water is due to a reaction between rainwater and the chemicals they are using. Ridiculously, our aging pipe system wasn’t mentioned.
- Richard Dawson and Esme Edge resigned from the Board of Knysna Tourism. Stephen de Vries was inappropriately on the Board as a Community Representative. No politician (and he is the Chief Whip of the ANC) should have held that position. It’s suppose to go to a member of the public. I’d previously stated that the politicians were controlling Knysna Tourism which is not suppose to happen. It’s why the truth of the Knysna Tourism crash has never come to light. Why no one has been punished! And now Stephen de Vries, who has refused to answer questions, will now move into the more legal, Council representative position. Another will join him.
- I’d previously reported that the DA had screwed up the budget big time, part of that being was zero debate at Council when the Service Level Agreement (SLA) for Knysna Tourism was amended and another R4 million of taxpayer’s cash given to them. Those few seconds represented how irresponsible our councillors (ANC, COPE and DA are). Now, at the Mayoral meeting, De Vries said: “As we are the only funder, it’s important that the councillors discuss their positions on the changes to Knysna Tourism so that the council has a position.” Yes, there are to be more changes voted on at the next Council meeting but it’s highly ironic because:
- Massive changes were made without collaboration with all councillors.
- Lauren Waring (Municipal Manager) refused to give the public protector the financials of Knysna Tourism, saying they’re a private company, yet here is De Vries, on the Tourism Board, stating the obvious that we (Knysna Municipality/taxpayers) are Tourism’s only funder.
Imagine a Knysna where our politicians informed us publicly about what happens at these public meetings. Can you? That they don’t says a lot about the lack of transparency in Knysna’s local government!