Residents’ rights

2013-06-27 00:00

DEAR Madam Mayor,

In early May we requested, on behalf of the uMngeni Residents/Ratepayers Association (URRA), a meeting with yourself and the municipal manager. The meeting took place on May 23.

At the start of the meeting, we offered that the URRA work with you to help rectify the parlous state of the municipality’s finances. We informed you that there were many retired people in the area who were previously experts in their fields as engineers, auditors, financial directors, senior municipal managers, and managing directors who would be prepared to offer their services without charge, to assist your staff to return the municipality to a sound financial and managerial footing.

We also informed you that the possibility existed that some of the retirees may have had contact with international donors who could be persuaded to fund job-creating projects and some infrastructure-recovery programmes.

We also reiterated our request for the following information, which you have refused to supply for over a year:

• Copies of the package of documents supplied to councillors prior to council meetings. The package to include an agenda, a copy of the previous meeting’s minutes and the appropriate annexures. This will enable us to follow the proceedings at council meetings. At present, we attend without any documentation and are forced to listen to the chairperson referring to pages in documents we don’t have access to. We have repeatedly indicated our willingness to pay for the copies at a reasonable commercial rate.

• Since June 2012, we have requested specific financial information which is not available in published documents. This information will enable us to assess the true state of the municipality’s finances. We are aware that you are trumpeting that the municipality is in the black, but as far as we can ascertain, this only means that the creditors have been brought into a 30-day cycle. We need not point out that this has been achieved by removing all infrastructure maintenance from the municipal expenditure, and severely curtailing all the services for which we pay rates. In addition, it is our perception that you have used the Government Equitable Share to do so.

We must point out that access to the above information is our right under the Promotion of Access to Information Act as well as the Constitution of South Africa, and that you have illegally been denying us this right for more than a year.

• We also requested that you disband the illegal Interim Finance Committee to which you replied that only the MEC for Finance could do so, as she had created this closed committee in the first place. We pointed out that legislation had not been followed in this regard. She could only place a dysfunctional municipality under total administration and not interfere by appointing individual committees. Her action has clearly beenultra vires ab initio. You undertook to raise the matter with your council.

We have been forced to publish an open letter to you in the press as you have not had the courtesy to respond to our requests submitted at the meeting on May 23, or to reply to my e-mail of May 31, in which we inquired after decisions concerning our requests detailed during the meeting of May 23.

Below are the reasons we urgently require this information:

• Under your watch, we have been losing, and continue to lose about R2 million a month in electricity, while the majority of residents in Mpophomeni do not pay for water, electricity and rates. They also do not pay for rubbish collection for which they can hardly be blamed, as they have been forced to burn their uncollected refuse on a nightly basis, covering Mpopomeni in a pall of toxic smoke.

• Our infrastructure, including electricity, roads, sewerage, drainage and municipal building, is collapsing to a point of no return because of the lack of budgeted maintenance.

• The rubbish dump is nearing the end of its life and yet there is no plan to finalise a new site. In addition, the dump in all probability leaches toxic chemicals into the ground water and stream below. What testing is taking place to prevent this probability? To date, we are unaware of any published results.

Midmar Dam and the Umgeni River are being severely polluted with raw sewerage to the point where the residents of Shiyabazali and their children are being placed in a life-threatening situation. We are aware that these items fall under the uMgungundlovu District Municipality’s jurisdiction, but these two problems occur squarely in your area. What have you done to ensure that uMgungundlovu performs to overcome this shocking situation? You should feel strongly enough to have taken drastic action to force a result. To say that these matters do not fall under your jurisdiction does not detract from the moral responsibility. Your residents are being poisoned.

• Rorie Anderson is the chairperson of the uMngeni Residents/Ratepayers Association.

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