Speech of the Mayor, Annelie Rabie, at the inauguration of the new council of Overstrand Municipality on Wednesday, 17 November 2021:
Speaker of the Overstrand Council
Speaker of the Western Cape Provincial Government, Honourable Masizole Mnqasela, MPL
The Minister of Human Settlements, Honourable Tertius Simmers, MPL
The Minster of Public Works and Transport, Honourable Daylin Mitchell, MPL
The Head of Department of Local Government in the Western Cape, Mr Graham Paulse
The Municipal Manager of Overstrand, Mr Dean O’Neill
Members of the public
All protocol observed
It is indeed a very humbling experience to stand here today as the Mayor of Overstrand. A most amazing life journey that started many moons ago when I was born at 40 Canterbury Street.
How proud my parents would have been today….and hence I dedicate this event to their memory.
During my mayoral “listening tours” in preparation for the election, I attended more than 50 direct engagements with stakeholders across the Overstrand. This is over and above, the myriad of door-to-door sessions, individual meetings and requests for information. I did that in order to hit the tar running! I wish to acknowledge voters and all the public volunteers that contribute to make Overstrand a unique and amazing community.
Based on the information thus acquired and in line with my interview for the position of Mayor, I today wish to reaffirm my commitment to my 3C strategy.
Whilst Overstrand received its 8th consecutive clean-audit and carries an annual budget of R1,4 bn, I remain concerned that Overstrand may become or perhaps already is a very expensive local authority. Council will soonest have to have the hard conversations as to whether our citizens can afford the tariffs that we levy? It is of no-use that we increase tariffs only to increase our % default payments. The fact that R40 million is provided for income forgone tells me a different story. Yet if we do that, citizens also need to be reminded that the notion of “the municipality must give or provide” will have to be tempered.
The tales of woe told by umpteen members of the community that cannot afford their municipal bills, the number of people not able to buy a reasonable number of electricity units because we use electricity as a penalty should one fall into arrears, are disconcerting. Perhaps it is easy if you are guaranteed a monthly income, not to see the suffering of those less fortunate. This includes 100rds of households who still suffer from the loss of income and jobs as a result of Covid 19. We currently have 3 primary sources for purchasing electricity and my sense is that citizens actually do not know this, nor is there cohesion in terms of tariffs.
Also, during my mayoral listening tours and in line with my personal mantra “I go see for myself” I am appalled by the inconsistency in the delivery of basic municipal services. Never can it be that waste management leaves so much to be desired.
Similarly though, I declared war against the dumping of building rubble. I am respectfully asking those that do renovations and construction, not to dump where they wish. There are dumping sites and if it is too expensive or too far, let us engage. Rubble does not walk! In area after area whether at a development site or an open piece of land everyone willy-nilly dumps.
In the same vein I notice that road verges are not cleared, storm water furrows are overgrown and in one area I notice beautiful gardens made in the furrows. In a number of areas, I notice night soil being thrown into ordinary household rubbish bins or in an open area. It is also dumped in the stormwater catchpits in the road, eventually landing up in the ocean. Surely this must never be as it is in direct conflict with the Bill of Human Rights?
I mention these, as we will, in consultation with the Municipal Manager engage on a journey of consistent delivery of basic services. If it means that for 1 or 2 financial years, we do nothing else whilst we are getting our primary constitutional mandate right, then so be it. We live in one of the most beautiful areas in the world, yet not getting our basics right will not attract increased numbers of investors or visitors. Similarly, charity begins at home and we owe it to all inhabitants of Overstrand to live in as neat and tidy a town as we possibly can achieve. This programme will be called “Forward to basics”.
The sooner we get our area cleaned out, the sooner we can start moving up the delivery ladder.
The environmental integrity of Overstrand will be a non-negotiable objective of my term of office. To this end, I will establish a civilian-driven Environmental Advisory Committee to advise the Mayor on how best to ensure that the environment will form the baseline and backdrop for development and governance in the Overstrand for the foreseeable future. The mandate committee will consist of Prof Hannes van der Merwe, Eugene Botha, Pottie Potgieter, Peter Oxford, Di Marais and Wilfred Chivell. The Terms of Reference will be agreed upon at a meeting to be held soonest. The outcome I expect, is to establish a full time Mayco position to deal with all environmental matters, including but not limited to, climate change, carbon footprint, alternative energy, protection of habitat of fauna and flora, as well as an indication of how our environmental assets - land, sea and air - can be used for enhanced tourism and entrepreneurship. The current placement of Environmental Services within the Infra-structure department does not make obvious sense. One of the key challenges is that whilst we wish to preserve our environmental integrity, Council is faced with the huge challenge to find work and income for the growing number of unemployed people, especially women and youth in our area. The question begs where do we protect and where do we develop? My view is that it is not mutually exclusive options. Hence the environment must provide the platform for all decisions taken in relation to development of whatever kind. There must be best practices somewhere in the world for a cohesive environmental/developmental interface. It does not have to be the one or the other or the one at the expense of the other! Perhaps we should do more to use smart city methodology in how we conduct our business.
As part of my commitment to environmental integrity, I will support a request from the residents of Rooi-els to embark on a rewilding programme for the area. I would like our near 100-year-old Fernkloof Botanical Garden to be elevated to a garden of international acclaim and if we can, beat Kirstenbosch! In line with environmental integrity, comes the very emotive issue of baboon management. I requested the MM that a moratorium be placed on the killing of baboons as well as the use of any apparatus that will or could potentially inflict pain on them. In order to fully understand the issues relative to co-habitation with baboons a meeting with all baboon stakeholders will be held on 2 December. It is a Council/citizenry engagement and does not include officials from either Overstrand or other government entity, except the Municipal Manager. Until such time that there is sufficient consensus on how to manage the matter in the best interest of all, we expect that the moratorium will remain in place, but still ensure that baboons are not further accustomed to humans. This by implication means that not all areas need to be treated the same. The converse question is also valid, namely what if a child or person gets hurt by a baboon? We therefore request the public to note that baboons are active in the Overstrand and that they should take all precautions possible to limit the human/wildlife interaction. This is similar to visiting a game park. Do not create stressors or attractors for baboons. In that regard we ask week-end visitors and holiday makers not to leave bags with household refuse outside. Please place it in a baboon proof bin, drop it off at the municipal drop off facilities or take it home with you. Do NOT leave it out in the open. Leave only your footprints behind! In the interim, as we progress in finding amicable solutions, we intend keeping citizens informed and create awareness of the caveats of cohabiting with baboons.
The following additional five matters will also receive immediate attention: the Schulphoek development will immediately be placed in the office of the Mayor so that the JDMA Intergovernmental approach can be applied. This matter is dragging since 2018 and it needs to be finalised. Council cannot allow itself to be called names like “dealing with terrorists”; incompetent and unresponsive yet we do not manage the blockages in progressing this project to conclusion;
The By-pass is another matter where I trust the Provincial Government will decide to not agree to the by-pass and that the matter be taken off their budget and their agenda. It certainly will be taken off the IDP of Overstrand. The issue is that this matter is kept alive for an agenda which I am not sure of, as there is no letter of approval OR a decision to in fact build a by-pass?
The issue of the linking of the cliff path also remains outstanding and I trust that it will be resolved within our 1st 100 days in office or at least show measurable and marked progress towards conclusion.
Number four relates to the development at Paradise Park. Surely it is incumbent on those involved to deal with this outstanding matter and provide peace of mind to those affected;
Number five relates to the provision of public transport. To this end, I am pleased to say that we have engaged Overstrand Taxi Association and we need to assist them in getting their routes, licences and other affiliations in place. Safe and reliable public transport across the Overstrand is a major concern, especially given that there are settlements, e.g. Mooi-uitsig where shops and banking facilities are not available. Commuters, most of which are unemployed or grant reliant, have to pay as much as R150 to get to Kleinmond to buy food – a mere 20 odd kilometres away.
Let me turn to the 3 C’s of immediate strategic interventions:
1) Communication: I will request the MM to present to Council by 28 February 2022 if possible, a communication strategy using appropriate technology to reach as many people in the Overstrand as possible. Decisions taken by Council as well as the Administration need to be communicated in KISS language to all that live here. Communication is also how we as Municipality interact with our citizens. We need to have isiXhosa interpreters; we need to have front office staff who can discern that older people do not hear so well; often do not understand what is being said; cannot read their bills and wearing a mask speaking at full speed makes people despondent and leave them with a feeling of hopelessness. ALL staff of the Municipality must be reminded that they are servants of the people, not the other way around.
I believe as councillors and senior managers of Overstrand Municipality, we must strengthen our skill to engage and listen. Therefore, as part of the communication strategy the MAYCO together with senior managers will make themselves available on predetermined dates, during which time individual citizens, business can raise and discuss matters relating to the municipal concurrent and exclusive competencies. This will initially be piloted, to be refined and sophisticated as required. As for the council meetings, these will be rotated between major towns.
2) Crime prevention and law enforcement: this matter received the 2nd most complaints during campaigning. We will engage the relevant department to explain what they are doing; why something like land invasions or irregular building activities are not managed; why dumping is not managed? Surely law enforcement officers drive with open eyes and can see when something is amiss? Whilst law enforcement is an extremely difficult and complex task, there must be a way in which this Department can better live up to the expectations of the community. We are thankful for the R6 million received from the Department of Community Safety for LEAP officers, but they much be productively managed and empowered to do a definite job, not left to their own devices. The issue of perlemoen and crayfish poaching, is after more than 20 years, still a matter of grave and serious concern. My Council, through the JDMA, will seek to address the unbridled reaping of our marine resources. Perhaps the licensing ineptitude of the national government has much to do with this.
3) Cost and ease of doing business with Overstrand: I will request the MM to immediately start a business process review within the Infra-structure and town planning departments. I have NO option but to heed the outcry of people from all walks of life to please do something about building plans, building inspections; timeframes; perceived inconsistent decisions; the role of the historical committees and what is perceived to be downright bullying. It is deemed to be expensive to develop in our town especially since some developers wait as long as 18 to 24 months to get a final answer. Red tape reduction is actually a verb, yet it does not seem to sit easy in Overstrand. By evaluating the business processes in this department, we will be able to see where duplications; unnecessary approvals and/or interface with the provincial government are. I would like the attitude to change from a perceived one of no, you cannot, to one of let us see how we can make it work.
Before concluding, allow me to refer to our 100 day plan:
1. Start of the business process review of the Infra-structure, Planning and Environmental Services department;
2. Establishment of the Environmental Advisory committee and receipt of its 1st introductory report
3. Investment conference scheduled for April 2022 – the programme and guest speakers to be finalised and marketing in progress
4. Undertaking a customer satisfaction survey
5. The introduction of the eCollaborator system as an efficient and effective electronic platform to register complaints
6. Review of the universal access policy
7. The tidying up of taxi ranks in all towns – the derelict buildings to be demolished or if there are some that can be salvaged, the necessary processes be put in place to do so
8. Appointment of additional LEAP officers based on the R6 million allocation from DOCS
9. The review of the membership of the Planning Tribunal to ensure its full and legally prescribed independence
10. Review of the EPWP business plans & consider to locate the monitoring & evaluation thereof in the Office of the Mayor
11. Review of the responsiveness of the festive season programme such as the lifting of unnecessary restrictions on venues & the review of tariffs
12. The land audit to be reviewed or completed in order to understand what land is earmarked/ zoned for what and what land is owned by council and other spheres of government
13. The informal Piggery to be formalised and to be brought in line with the DA policy on sentient animals
14. Public Open Space maintenance plan overhauled and submitted to Council – our parks, road reserves and open spaces are overgrown and unkept.
15. Outsourcing of basic maintenance work in our buildings and other infrastructure to be reviewed and Council be informed why this is in fact happening
16. Discussion on all MOU’s and contracts currently active in Overstrand.
17. Council to engage in conversation on shack farming and the effective and efficient management of informal settlements
My request to the MM is that the above be undertaken with internal resources and that the use of consultants or service providers is limited to specific services and skills not available in the Municipality.
On request of the MM, an issue that will be addressed over the next 6 to 12 months, is the complete review of the organogram especially in view of the fact that way too many services are centralised in Hermanus. This leaves citizens from the other towns to have to travel here to deal with their matters.
Elections are about Government contracting with the citizenry. Whilst the DA was successful in taking 17 of the 27 seats in this Council, there is also an expression of other political views that we as the Council collective need to respect and engage with. I also wish to join hands with the general public to hold us accountable for how we use your tax money and how we protect your direct environment. Therefore, I kindly request you to play your part in engaging your ward councillors, give your input on matters, attend public meetings and express your opinion on the IDP and budget!
I also wish to in anticipation thank our MM and our 1200 staff members for playing their part in achieving our objectives.
I wish to thank the DA for their confidence in me; my Constituency Head Honourable Masizole Mnqasela, the many activists and my nearest and dearest for walking this road with me. Behind me is a Council of diverse members, but we all got elected on a similar ticket – we would like Overstrand to be an Overstrand for all. My government will strive to be the best in achieving this as we will get things done!