Be afraid, be very afraid!

Cape Times
21 June 2013

Len Swimmer
Chairman: Greater Cape Town Civic Alliance

‘Be afraid, very afraid’

I REFER to Councillor Garreth Bloor’s reply to our open letter to the mayor on the proposed removal of subcouncils’ delegated powers to deal with land use planning matters (Cape Times June 14).

His remark that these proposed revised delegations are not designed to diminish the role of subcouncils is disingenuous, or he has been sadly misled by his officials, or he has not understood the proposals.

Council Agenda item ‘C29/05/13‘ states clearly that it is planned to remove subcouncils’ entire delegated authority in respect of land use planning, other than the power to decide on street-naming, and even then only if the naming is not associated with a land use application.

His implied suggestion that subcouncils make their decisions in an arbitrary fashion is breathtaking. Is Councillor Bloor suggesting that members of subcouncils, made up of city councillors like himself, cannot be trusted to uphold the law, and only a faceless official, totally unaccountable to the communities in respect of which the decisions are made, can be depended upon to apply the city’s policies correctly?

It is apparent that Councillor Bloor believes that subcouncils make decisions that run counter to current city policies – a most interesting proposition. All subcouncils have a majority of DA councillors. If they are continuously making decisions that do not accord with city policy it surely means that the majority of councillors do not agree with the direction being taken by their political bosses.

That is a scary thought and should make all ratepayers concerned about what the future holds for their city

Councillor Bloor’s repeated reference to the concern of investors regarding certainty is illuminating.

Presumably he refers to developers, whom the city seems ever more anxious to please and appease, hence the mayor’s ‘Red Tape to Red Carpet’ battle cry. It is apparent that what the DA really wants is a free hand to do what it wants in Cape Town land use planning matters by closing down the space afforded for constructive public comment and participation in the workings of local government; the comment and participation which provides the checks and balances on authoritarianism essential in a properly working democratic political system.

The more one learns about the ‘Red Tape to Red Carpet’ project, the clearer it becomes that what started out as a sensible aim has developed in a direction which is the very antithesis of the DA’s core values.

It seems that the present policy makers in the Cape Town City Council are quite oblivious to their duty to provide transparent and accountable government and involve the governed population in the implementation of policy on land use planning.

The present system of delegations provides a sensible balance of authorities which ensures the desired absolute certainty of outcome for a land use planning application, if that application is couched hi accordance with the policies which Councillor Bloor emphasises as being paramount.

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