Chairman’s address : GCTCA AGM 22 OCTOBER 2016 + Video

ann2016

GREATER CAPE TOWN CIVIC ALLIANCE
ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING
RONDEVELI NATURE RESERVE, CAPE TOWN 22 OCTOBER 2016
CHAIRMAN’S REPORT AND ADDRESS

FULL TEXT

GREATER CAPE TOWN CIVIC ALLIANCE 

ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING 

RONDEVELI NATURE RESERVE, CAPE TOWN 22 OCTOBER 2016 

CHAIRMAN’S REPORT AND ADDRESS 

 

Ladies and gentlemen

It has been my pleasure to serve as chairman for this year which was quite hectic with so many things happening on the local government scene. Thank you for coming and supporting your GCTCA.  You all do a wonderful job in organising the ratepayers under very difficult and trying times. 

Fellow Capetonians, we live in interesting times.  We live in a fast changing local government dispensation.  One of the manifestations of this change can be noticed in the huge increase in the cost of living in Cape Town.  Our municipal taxes have risen enormously.  Tariffs have increased to such an extent that soon our children will be asking us what we used for lights before the candle and we will say electricity.  The cost of energy has risen to such an extent that soon we will be forced to have earth hour more regularly than before, where all lights are switched off and we live in darkness. Yet, the City of Cape Town seem to make it extremely difficult for people to develop their own energy and sell excess back into the grid. Wise governments all over the world encourage investing your excess power from your renewable energy efforts back into the grid for the good of the community, but I am afraid that is not being encouraged here in Cape Town.

We live in interesting times, where the environment is under extreme threat.  It appears that our environment has become the proverbial lamb being led to be slaughtered on the altar of what is called development.  Let’s be clear, destroying our natural environment and replacing it with concrete jungles, in my estimation at least, can in no way be called progressive development.  The cosy relationship between our local government structures and the Western Cape Developers Forum, where red carpet treatment ensures the big developers easy passage to encroach on the urban edge, where zoning rules are amended to allow more units for profit and where the seemingly insatiable Mammonic greed is fed. The battle of the Durbanville Development Forum is but one example. It is sad that they lost the battle to big developer money.  The threat to the Philippi Horticultural Area, Cape Town’s bred basket is another example of how things have changed to suit the developer.  No longer can we depend on those we elect to office to protect our environment.  The questionable processes regarding the development plans for Maidens Cove speaks volumes of the little regard for the will of the people to protect their open public spaces from the grubby hands of the greedy developer.  The question begs to be asked as to why the landscape and skyscape of the Bo-Kaap and the unique ambiance of the area should be sacrificed for the sake of what is called development. 

The GCTCA joined others in protesting unwise developments.  The new push to sell off publicly owned land to developers is cause for great concern.  The proposed sale of the Tafelberg site in Sea Point is an issue at hand. We salute organisations such as Ndifuna Ukwazi and others for their valiant efforts to redirect the thinking about the selling off of publicly owned land and the consequent eviction of people who have made the places their home for generations.

The GCTCA is clear in its position that any land to be sold in or close to the City centre must be done through a meaningful public participation process. We believe that where government, such as our City government, considers it necessary to redevelop sites, that selling it off to money hungry developers is not the answer.  If the best way to deal with the land is to get a developer to develop it, then the City must insist that in such cases, affordable housing for the poor close to the centre of economic activity, should be provided.  People who have not been evicted because of apartheid spatial planning and have not felt the cold hand of forced removals from the City or land close to the City will not understand that this policy is but a small contribution to redressing apartheid spatial planning and restoration of economic justice for the indigenous people of this land.

Never before has the need for civil society vigilance been greater than in this interesting times we live in.  We have a constitutional democracy.  But what does it mean when the democratic space in local government is fast shrinking and it appears that there has been “state capture” at our local government level.  The credo that “the people shall govern” has no meaning when clever little tricks are engineered to diminish true public participation. The IDP process of the City of Cape Town is probably the best example of process capture by those who have the power. Ratepayers are called to an IDP meeting not to discuss what they would like to have on the budget, but rather to rubber stamp what the local government has planned.  Taking advantage of the lack of resources and skill of civil society, the City government can get away with whatever it is they want to do.. The demise of real democracy reminds one of Anand Bose’s phrase “political castration” in Chamber of Sacrilege.   All over Cape Town ratepayers are feeling politically castrated.   Never before has the need been greater for civil society to be more vigilant and alert.  Tariffs are increasing and local property taxes are increasing at such a rate that soon many of us on fixed pension incomes will not be able to afford to live in this beautiful city. And yet one would think that those whom you elect to represent you are also there to protect you.

City government has become bloated. It has become cash hungry at the expense of the ratepayer. I want to suggest that the City can start to become what it calls a caring city by focussing more on making it possible for the poor to enjoy the pleasures of living in this jewel in the crown of Africa, which is Cape Town.   One way is to cut the cost of governance.  Do we really need 231 councillors when most of the decisions are taken by the executive mayor and the Mayco?  I understand that the municipal council in Cape Town is larger that the national legislatures in many countries.  There might be many dynamics to this, but really 231?  I know the City is reviewing its policy regarding the use of consultants and this should be welcomed as another cost-saving measure.  Apart from the number of councillors, is it necessary to be paid so much even as a part-time councillor.  This has just become another way of funding political parties as these party hacks do their party-political work on our tax monies.  A 25% drop in councillor salaries will go a long way to making a contribution to the cut in exhorbitant local government taxes and tariffs. Another way of saving for the City is to resist taking its ratepayers to court every time there is an objection by organised civil society.  The mantra: “ if you don’t like it, take us to court”  often heard as the stock response to objectors to inappropriate development, is dangerous and works against real democracy.   The City uses our rates money to us, civil society to court.  They know the hard pressed ratepayer and organised civil society don’t always have the resources to meet their challenge on an equal footing. The way ratepayers are treated and the way in which the democratic space is just being whittled away reminds me of the book by USA Judge Andrew P Napolitano entitled: “It is dangerous to be right when the government is wrong.”

There are many other ways the City can save money for the benefit of the hard pressed ratepayer. All it needs is some innovative thinking.  But experience has shown that the municipal mind is a strange thing.

Allow me to thank our executive committee for their faithful in attending to the affairs of the GCTCA and attending meetings.

There is so much more to say but in conclusion, allow me to congratulate and encourage those civil society structures that remain steadfast in the face of great adversity.  Your struggles will not go unnoticed. When the environment of this planet is restored to its former glory and our children can once again breath real fresh air, you would have been recorded to have been on the right side of history.

I thank you.

PHILIP BAM

CHAIRMAN: GREATER CAPE TOWN CIVIC ALLIANCE.

 

Leave a Reply