GCTCA Annual Chairman’s Report August 2015

 

Ann2015

GREATER CAPE TOWN CIVIC ALLIANCE

ANNUAL REPORT AND ADDRESS OF THE CHAIRMAN TO THE AGM OF THE GCTCA ON 15 AUGUST 2015 AT GRASSY PARK

Ladies and gentlemen

At the outset I wish to pay homage to one of our Executive Committee members John Gray, who passed away.  We remember him as a tireless fighter, grappling with disrespectful developments in the De Waterkant and Bo Kaap.   He embodied the spirit of community activism and he will be sorely missed. I invite you all to stand for a moment in respect of this worthy civic activist.

There are so many issues gripping our minds right now and it is virtually impossible to cover it all in a report of this nature.

We live in interesting times.  Unemployment increased by 60% over the last 21 years.  Statistics show that 54% of the population live below the poverty line. The cost of raising a wage is increasing with increases in transportation and petrol cost. We face threats to our food security. Safety of our citizens has become problematic and corruption is increasing in all spheres of our society, in private as well as public institutions.

It is in this environment that an organisation such as GCTCA operates and its work is affected by all these factors.

The diminishing public participation space and the whittling away of real democracy remains a concern. We are concerned and would encourage citizens to start looking at alternative, peaceful ways of ensuring your vote means something.

Sometimes there is some dim light at the end of the tunnel to be observed and we wish to congratulate the Princess Vlei Forum on its achievements in saving the Vlei but also in engaging the City now in the appropriate development of the area. We look forward to seeing that space turned into a happy place.

The ominous head of the monster of inappropriate development seems to be coming out of the ground so often that one needs to be in full time employment to engage with unbridled and reckless development.  This report will touch on some of those issues.

Limited time does not allow us to focus on all your issues but we wish to encourage you to continue and wherever the GCTCA collective can be of assistance, please do call on us.

 

RATES AND MUNICPAL CHARGES

Municipal rates remains a continuing concern, especially when it appears that it is now regarded as a means of ripping the poor ratepayer to cover the spiralling cost of a bloated bureaucracy.

The current increases are way above the inflation rate and obviously has the effect of making the citizen poorer. It is very rare for salaries to increase by 10% or more, yet the citizen workers of Cape Town have to face a municipal increase in rates, water and sanitation of over 11%.  The CPI at March 2015 was estimated at 4% and the increases in all categories of municipal charges are well over double the reflected inflation rate. We believe this shows scant regard for the affordability of ratepayers.  The GCTCA believes that the increase in municipal costs to the ratepayer should be pegged at no more than the inflation rate, which is now below 6%.  We recommend that the City seriously consider how it allocates its funds.  The use of consultants at exhorbitant fees should be curtailed; the so-called specialised staff in the office of the Mayor could be limited to only functions that are vital for the administration of the City and not for political power control.  Perhaps the City of Cape Town should consider if it really needs over 200 councillors at huge costs to the ratepayers.

 

THE BY-LAW ON MUNICPAL PLANNING

The Spatial Planning and Land Use Management Act, 2013 (Act16 of 2013) (SPLUMA) came into effect on 1 July 2015.

LUPO (Ordinance 15 of 1985), which gave communities the right to object to developments if it was felt not to be desirable or in the best interest of a particular community, will be repealed.

It would appear that the voice of the ratepayer is being silenced by the new municipal bylaw on planning (MBL).  Regulation will allow developments to be approved without consultation with the ratepayers and community. A closer study of the MBL reveal quite wide ranging powers given to the City to exclude public participation, e.g the City can decide whom it feels would be appropriate to consult. This means it could bypass the local ratepayer and civic organisations thus denying organised community structures a voice.

 

UNBRIDLED AND SOMEWHAT RECKLESS DEVELOPMENT

Development of infrastructure and the built environment can be a wonderfully prosperous enterprise if undertaken in the best interest of the whole of society and not only to enrich a few.  Over the last few years we have seen a plethora of unwise and inappropriate developments, encroaching on nature reserves, taking away public open spaces – all in the name of generating more rates income for the City.  We question whether the money imperative should be the only driving force for development in the City of Cape Town.  The battle to save farmland and good agricultural space in Durbanville, such as Uitkamp continues to be a stark reminder that if we are not more vigilant, this beautiful City of ours will be turned into a concrete jungle.

We salute the Durbanville Community Forum and George Sieraha, our deputy Chairman for their valiant struggle against big money power.

The GCTCA has been at pains to explain that tourists come to Cape Town to see the beauty of nature and if this kind of unbridled, unwise development theory continues to be put into practice, Cape Town will lose its attraction to tourists.

 

CLIFTON DEVELOPMENT

The GCTCA is keeping a close watch on developments regarding the proposals to take away some more public open space for a major commercial development at Camps Bay.  Concerns include the prospect of more congestion in an already congested area, the minimising of spaces where the community can enjoy recreation, and of course the deficient public participation processes around this matter.

The following quote from representations made by the Camps Bay Ratepayers Association says so much about the concerns of the people.

Although this is part of the Mayor’s strategic development initiative,

it is not in the public interest that political motivation for “better utilization”

of City-owned land, with its narrow financial benefits for political agendas,

be placed before reasoned town planning, environmental and public

amenity considerations”.

Information available to us indicate that much of the area affected by the development has been a declared a heritage site for 70 years and it appears as if this will be changed without public participation to suit the needs of developers.  The Mail and Guardian article of 10 July 2015 is recommended reading for more understanding of the issue.

 

LOAD SHEDDING

Unfortunately, power outages have become a reality in our lives.  The demand on our energy resources is rising every day for a number of reasons, some of it being bad management and others related to the increase in users of electricity.  No doubt, this is having a negative impact on the economy and therefore denying us all that promised better life.  You would have read many of the representations on behalf of the GCTCA in the media.  More about this and other issues taken up by the GCTCA will be found on our website www.gctca.org.za.   There is a shortage of LP Gas, yet government policy allows exports to our neighbouring countries.  The GCTCA has been applying its mind to this issue for some time and today one of our executive committee members, Mr David Lipschitz will be presenting a talk on the energy crises.  We could all be saved a lot of anxiety and our economy could be energised if only the authorities would listen and take heed of sound advice.  But more on that form our speaker later.

 

THE CAPE TOWN STADIUM

It has always been the position of the GCTCA that the building of the Cape Town Stadium in Green Point was a bad decision.  The local ratepayers raised concerns, which were ignored or just explained away. Good information about experiences of other countries were ignored and at the behest of the ultimate usurper, we bowed down at the altar of civic management madness and political correctness.

The latest fiasco with the Cape Town Soccer Cup 2015, proved the point that this was an ill-advised development.  Voices have gone up for the demolition of this white elephant, which is costing the ratepayers of Cape Town over R60m a year to maintain. The GCTCA supports that view and we wish common sense would prevail. The feeble efforts to turn this monstrosity into something useful has been singularly disastrous and the time has come for the City to make take the plunge and do what is right by the ratepayers.

 

TAKING THE PLUNGE – SEWERAGE IN THE OCEAN

We expressed concern about the negative impact of the sewerage outfall into the ocean along our beautiful coast.   Media reports have indicated, “some 786 million litres of polluted water was being discharged into the sea daily”.  This is shocking and the City, now having been shown the folly of its ways, is in the process of applying for permits to keep on doing what environmentalists consider being an outrage.  Human beings have suffered the effects of this pollution as well as marine life.

The GCTCA engaged the national government on this matter.   We believe the City of Cape Town is taking an arrogant stance on this matter as Len Swimmer, our first Deputy chairman said:

with the Mayoral Committee Member for Utility Services, Cllr Ernest Sonnenberg, displaying a self-satisfied attitude believing that the City could not be doing anything wrong.

On 25 June 2015 Sonnenberg said that the City intends continuing to use their outfalls for the next 20 years and that there is no land available to do anything else – there is no intention whatsoever to even consider proper treatment plants for sewage”.

The GCTCA again, makes a call on the City to consider more efficient and environmentally safe ways of dealing with sewerage.  We urge the City to explore alternative technologies.

 

DENSIFICATION

We live in an inefficient and unequal city.  Poorer workers live far from their places of employment and the distribution of income is also not equal.

The GCTCA invested some energy in the question of densification. We seem to be at odds with the City about its densification policies.

Urban sprawl, and the need to encroach on sensitive land could be obviated if more attention is given to development of higher density housing closer to transport routes. Our position is that densification should take place next to railway routes, taxi routes and bus transport routes and not in already overcrowded sub-economic housing estates.  The obvious advantage in our model is the saving in travelling time and travelling cost to get to work as well as the reduction of congestion on our roads.

 

LIQUOR OUTLETS AND ALCOHOL ABUSE.

The GCTCA made various representations and alerted communities to the developments regarding liquor policy.  Alcohol abuse has been a scourge in the majority of our communities.   A recent report by government indicates that  “Statistics on the liquor industry relating to manufacturers and distributors showed that there were 35 distributors in 2003 and currently there were over 2 000 licensees. The total recorded alcohol per capita consumption in liters of pure alcohol for the Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries showed South Africa had the second highest consumption at 27.1 litres alcohol per capita. South Africa had one of the riskiest drinking patterns in the world and ranked in the top five. South Africans drink, on average, 53% more than the rest of Africa. Alcohol was the third leading cause of premature death and disability in South Africa. Tangible financial costs of harmful alcohol use alone were equivalent to 1.6% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). South Africa was also a global leader in terms of alcohol related harms, with 10 times the global average for male homicides and twice the global average for road injury deaths.

While the national Government is adhering to the WHO recommendations to restrict the easy access to liquor, especially in vulnerable communities, the Western Cape Government seems hell-bent to oppose the restriction that liquor premises to be located at least 500 meters away from schools, places of worship, recreation facilities, and rehabilitation centres, residential areas and public institutions.

The GCTCA will keep up the fight to eradictae shebeening in residentail areas.

THANKS AND APPRECIATION

I acknowledge the support of members of the Executive Committee, who attended our monthly meetings regularly.  Thank you for taking up issues in the interest of our communities.

We thank LOFOB for making its facilities available for our meetings.

We thank the media for taking on our issues and giving us voice.

It is my wish that the new committee would continue the good work started and especially show a brave face under the circumstances where community activism is under attack.

SAY SOMETHING AND DO SOMETHING!

PHILIP BAM

CHAIRMAN

15 August 2015.

 

 

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