This is the first in a series of interview questions that I sent to members of all political parties in an attempt to inform Knysna’s citizens on where our representatives stand on issues that affect our lives. Having met with many politicians lately, I realized that there’s also a need to spotlight differences and, more importantly, commonalities. That goal will be a work in progress.
Getting politicians to say yes was easy but actually getting the answers has proven more difficult. After almost a month, I’m grateful for this first response from Knysna’s Deputy Mayor Michelle Wasserman who is a member of the Knysna DA, head of the Council’s Financial Committee and on the Knysna Tourism Board.
What do you consider to be the 3 biggest challenges Knysna is facing?
A1: Unemployment & Poverty
A2: Economic crisis
A3: Provision and maintenance of Infrastructure
What is the short-term plan to solve them or take a step in a positive direction?
A1: Promotion of entrepreneurship via the Entrepreneur Incubator, preference points for local businesses in the SCM (Supply Chain Management) policy and procedures, use of local labour for public and municipal works, the insistence that local labour is used by private developers and nurturing and training of small contractors.
A2: There is no short term intervention for a global economic downturn as it requires long terms investment and planning – both of which are being undertaken.
A3: From the 25 to 29 July 2011, the Directorate Technical Services engaged with ALL ward (Including PR) councillors on a fact-finding mission (Ward visit) on the critical challenges facing the ward communities. The report will be costed in line with the existing budget (Operational budget) and a plan of action will be drafted with a list of priorities.
Secondly, the Directorate’s critical areas of priorities are:
Roads, Stormwater and Public Works Department – Pothole patching: The 67 minutes of Mandela Day celebration was used in attending to the pothole patching and we have a detailed programme of action in place going forward beyond the three months.
Stormwater Cleaning: Technical Services have beef-up stormwater teams with casual workers as to attend to the cleaning of catchpit, streams and other storm water-related assets.
Re-gravelling of damaged roads – quotations for machinery will be requested and materials ordered.
Water and Sewerage – the municipality will streamline and fast track attendance time to pipe bursts and sewerage blockages, maintain water and sewerage pump stations and install DISTRICT ZONED meters (On bulk infrastructures to assist with water demand management).
Administration – a centralised Complaint’s desk will be set up.
Knynsa government cannot govern sufficiently without proper population and unemployment statistics. What is been done to gain these?
A: This is not a problem unique to Knysna Municipality. Censuses are national requirements and the responsibility of national government primarily due to the logistics and resources required to undertake such work every 5 years. To undertake a full demographic and socio-economic census for the whole of Knysna would require over R5 million – far too costly for a small Council. The last survey was the 2006 Eden based survey and we use these figures in conjunction with the national census of 2001. A census. as said, is being undertaken in October this year.
What is the Knysna Municipality doing to assist the creation of jobs?
A: Promotion of entrepreneurship via the Entrepreneur Incubator, preference points for local businesses in the SCM policy and procedures, use of local labour for public and municipal works, insistence that local labour be used by private developers and nurturing and training of small contractors.
Generally, internet searches for information on the suburbs of Concordia, Smutsville, Khayalethu and Hornlee meet with failure. What is being done to increase visibility of 80% of Knysna’s people?
A: If you do an internet search for Old Place or Hunters Home, the result will be either commercial accommodation based or commercial property based, so what are the searchers actually looking for? If you google Hornlee, Knysna you get 35500 responses of this nature. If they are requesting we give demographic and economic breakdowns that is something that could be looked at after the census is made available.
The Knysna Ratepayer’s Association estimates that 19% of Knysna pays rates and water? What is being done to increase this figure…or what your party believes it to be?
A: Not true – if one assumes that there are +/- 18000 rates accounts plus an additional +/- 2000 prepaid accounts that gives you 20000 account holders. Multiply that by 2.5 people per property gets you to 50000.
Electricity is the second biggest form of income for Knysna. Does it remain so with Eskom’s huge increases?
A: Electricity has been the biggest gross income for the last three years. If you are talking about net income, yes, it is still second.
What is going to be done to stop the increasing drug problem in Knysna?
A: Drug Law-Enforcement is a SAPS function. The Knysna Municipal Law Enforcement officers from time to time assist in special actions against drug users and apprehend alleged offenders in normal patrols in the municipal area.
Knysna police, whether fair or unfair, has a terrible reputation? Why not keep the public informed of developments in cases where police officers have been charged so that we know that justice is being done?
A: The SAPS falls under the National Government, not Local Government.
Knysna Tourism is an unpopular entity among opposition parties and many citizens in the poorer suburbs which make up the vast majority of Knysna. Only white people are on the Tourism Board (7 members). What is going to be done to include all Knysna’s citizens in the tourism and eventing process?
A: The current contract with Tourism states that three community members must be included on the Board. Council can nominate the individuals to serve on the Board.
Why isn’t sport being sufficiently developed as a unifying force in Knysna?
A: The Knysna Municipality has an established Sports Desk to facilitate sporting development. The Sports Desk works closely with the sporting fraternity organizing and funding tournaments.
What is being done to develop arts and culture?
A: An official has been appointed in the Libraries, Arts, Culture & Heritage section. He works closely with Eden District Municipality on these initiatives. There are a number of programmes that run throughout the year.
* * *
Commentary: An email interview is convenient for those with busy schedules but the limitation is being unable to get clarification on certain issues and being able to ask another question when an answer begs for it. Nevertheless, this serves as a foundation and I’m grateful for a step forward in communication.
Deputy Mayor Michelle Wasserman has been sent a follow-up. Those questions have been added below.
For now, as I’ve discovered in talks with other councillors, they are either unaware of, or there isn’t, a policy on drugs. I’ve yet to hear of an effective sporting or arts & culture program but that will be followed up. I was unable to find details for the Sports desk and Entrepreneur Incubator online which makes me wonder how fledgeling these programs are. Nevertheless, more info will be gained in due course, as well as their contact details.
I’ve never heard of the Entrepreneur Incubator. Is this part of KEDA (Knysna Economic Development Agency)? How do citizens apply? Where can our readers learn about it online?
Too often there aren’t dates, thus a real plan, set by the municipality. So who is responsible for the summation report of the ward problems, when is it suppose to be submitted back to you, and how long will it take to decide on the recommendations and vote a budget? Timeline makes it real.
In the last council meeting, it was said that the road budget is running out and that they’re at the point of having to declare some roads gravel instead of tar. Does this not contradict your infrastructure intentions above?
Are you saying that the census will also supply unemployment statistics, the number of people on welfare, school populations, preschoolers not in school etc.? The last administration didn’t do anything and I’m wanting to discover where the DA-led municipality stands. What can you do that is not being provided by the forthcoming census?
I return millions of Google results but that doesn’t mean that they’re relevant or even about me…so i meant more information on schools, history, arts & culture, sport etc. What is being done to bring real information about the majority of Knysna’s population into the public arena and, thus, make them a part of Knysna?
Regarding three community members being included on the Board is good news but unfortunately, I’d never heard of that and neither has anyone else I’ve spoken to. Who were those community members on the last Board and who are they now?
Who has been appointed as the Arts & Culture liaison? Love to chat to him as the only group I’ve heard of doesn’t do much and, again, there doesn’t seem to be an oversight plan from a Council perspective?
* * *
For some fun, light-hearted questions and answers on who Michelle Wasserman is outside of politics, pop by Love Knysna.