Angry Northdale ratepayers pack civic centre

2008-02-29 00:00

Northdale residents packed the Bombay Road Civic Centre on Wednesday night, to vent their frustration over the city's new valuation roll.

There was standing room only at the highly charged meeting, which saw the area's ward councillors come in for a roasting. 'Where were you when this valuation was going on?' they were asked.

Residents were up in arms over the values of their homes, which they felt were unrealistic and not in keeping with property market trends in their area. They were also furious at gross discrepancies. 'My house is smaller than my neighbour's; his is a double-storey with four extra rooms, yet his house is valued at R800 000 and mine at R1,6 million. This is idiotic and farcical,' said a speaker from the floor. 'Somebody has not been applying their mind'

Another told of her mother living in 'nine and three village' - the poorest section in Northdale. This is where residents only paid rent of nine shillings and three pence when the block houses were first built. She said her pensioner mother qualified for council's indigent policy because previously her house was valued at less than R30 000. In the new valuation roll this same house is put down at R270 000. 'The valuation of this section did not take into account the poverty in the area, the poor state of many of the houses and the crime that plagues the residents,' she said.

There were calls for the scrapping of the valuation roll with many residents inquiring why they should go through the arduous objection process if the roll, or the section that applies to their area, is so flawed.

They suggested asking for more time to lodge objections, marches, protests and a memorandum sent to council.

Member of the Provincial Parliament, Yusuf Bhamjee, who chaired the meeting had a tough time maintaining control. Bhamjee and several senior members of the community had to call for calm several times during the evening saying they understood that emotions and anger were running high.

He warned, however, that no matter what other actions are undertaken, it was absolutely essential that property owners lodge their individual objections, using the objection forms given by council.

There was a buzz of excitement in the hall and people stood around talking long after the meeting was over.

Older community activists recalled that the last time the hall had been this full was during the anti-apartheid protests of the 1980s.

'This is democracy,' said an old stalwart. 'We can't sit around and wait for these fellas on the stage [councillors] to do something.'

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