Monday, 30 January 2012

Individual declaration of disputes with the Kouga Municipality

Many ratepayers and residents of Jeffreys Bay have ongoing disputes with the Kouga Municipality (KM) over issues such as property valuation, sewage removal, water quality, rates and services payments, and so on. In most cases the KM deals with these disputes in their own good time, or fails to deal with them at all, while the ratepayer keeps paying and waiting for a resolution of a sometimes urgent problem.

A widespread rates boycott would need the support of many thousands of residents, many of whom do not have a current, specific problem with KM. In addition, a widespread rates boycott  would not solve specific problems, but would address governance in the km as a whole.

For these reasons, the Jeffreys Bay Residents Association (JBRA) is recommending that individual ratepayers and residents with a specific problem formally declare a dispute with the KM through legal channels. Once the dispute has been declared, the KM must formally respond to the dispute in writing through their legal department, and all disputed payments, levies and fines may be held in suspension until the resolution of the dispute.  For example, if you believe that your assessed rates are too high, and you have good grounds for this belief, then payment of the rates in dispute may be suspended until the resolution of the dispute.

The JBRA has reached an agreement with Blignault & Vennote, a firm of attorneys in St Francis road, Jeffreys Bay, to formally file a letter of dispute with the KM on behalf of a JBRA member for the amount of R80.  The resident will provide  name and address and details of the dispute to the attorney, who will then draft and deliver a registered letter to the Kouga Municipal offices, and will keep the letter on file at the attorney’s offices.  The dispute will also be logged on the Mobilitate website.
The R80 does not include further legal advice, or an assessment of the merits of the case. Any further legal costs relating to the dispute will be for the account of the resident raising the dispute.

The contact details for Blignault & Vennote are as follows:
Ernie Blignault BA.LLB.(Stell)
082 550 0391   042 293 2211
PO Box 1500
Jeffreys Bay

Verklaring van dispute met die Kouga Munisipaliteit deur individuele.

Baie belastingbetalers en inwoners van Jeffreysbaai het nimmereindigende dispute met die Kouga Munisipaliteit. Dit betrek sake soos eiendomswaardasie, rioolverwydering, water kwaliteit, tariewe en dienste betalings, ens. In die meeste gevalle word hierdie probleme op die goeie langdradige tempo van die Munisipaliteit hateer, indien ooit. Intussen moet die belastingbetaler aanhou betaal en wag op 'n oplossing van 'n probleem wat ernstig kan wees, of wat vir hom/haar ernstig is.

'n Effektiewe algemene belasting boikot vereis die samewerking van talle duisende inwoners, van wie die meeste waarskynlik nie 'n huidige spesifieke probleem het met die KM nie. Verder, 'n algemene belasting boikot se funksie sal hoofsaaklik wees om die wanadministrasie van die KM in die algemeen mee aan te vat.

Om hierie redes het die Jeffreysbaai se Inwonersvereniging (JBIV) die volgende roete daargestel vir die hantering deur individue en inwoners met dispute. Dit is om binne die reels van die reg formeel 'n dispuut te verklaar met KM. Nadat die dispuut verklaar is, moet KM formeel reageer, dit is 'n skriftelike reaksie op u brief van hul regsdepartement. Deur die dispuut te verklaar word aksie oor  alle betalings, heffings en boetes gestop tot die dispuut uitgeklaar en opgelos is. 'n Voorbeeld is, indien u op goeie gronde glo dat u aangeslane eiendomsbelasting te hoog is, dan word die betaling van u heffing opgeskort totdat die dispuut heeltemal opgelos is.

Die JBIV het 'n ooreenkoms aangegaan met Blignault & Vennote, 'n prokureursfirma in St Francisweg, Jeffreysbaai om 'n formele brief van dispuut te stuur aan die KM namens 'n JBIV lid, waarvan die koste R80 beloop. Die inwoner verskaf hul naam, adres en details van die dispuut aan die prokureur wat dan die brief skryf en lewer aan die KM kantore. Hulle liaseer ook 'n kopie van die brief in hulle kantore. Die dispuut word ook op Mobilitate webwerf aangeteken. Die fooi van R80 sluit nie verdure regsadvies in of 'n opinie oor die meriete van die saak nie. Koste van verdere regshulp is vir die rekening van die inwoner.

Die kontakdetails vir Blignault & Vennote is as volg:
Ernie Blignault BA.LLB.(Stell)
082 550 0391   042 293 2211
Posbus 1500

A Framework for Utilising Residents’ Skills in the Kouga Region

I (Trevor Watkins) developed this proposal in October 2011, after discussions with Glen Buchner and Dries van Heerden, on a way to assist the KM without costing a huge amount. The proposal was presented to the Acting Municipal Manager and the Mayor, on several occasions. No response was ever received.


The Kouga Municipality (KM) is faced with formidable challenges – a fact that has been honestly acknowledged by the mayor and municipal manager. The KM is not alone in facing these challenges. Virtually every municipality in the country is compromised. Towns, cities and states all around the world are having to deal with reduced incomes, spiralling costs and rampant corruption.

This document contains a proposal to address these challenges using the existing skills and knowledge that already exist within our local population, without compromising the integrity of the democratic structures currently in place. These proposals will require sympathetic consideration, compromise and cooperation from all sides of the great South African divide. But South Africans have shown themselves capable of this cooperation in the past, given the right leadership.

Perhaps we can begin another phase of our journey on the great South African project right here in Kouga – perhaps we can bring about a municipal Codesa of our own.

The Reality

  • The responsibility for the governance of Kouga rests with 29 elected councillors. The ANC has 15 councillors and the DA has 14. Consequently, the ANC councillors are the governing party, and appoint the Mayor, mayoral committee and senior members of the municipality.
  • Councillors are elected because the voters believe they will best represent their interests. Councillors do not necessarily have the specific management and technical skills required to run a municipality.
  • The KM finances are in a bad way, with expenditure exceeding income, and many creditors not being paid.
  • The KM is overstaffed, with staff expenditures well above the national norm.
  • The Kouga infrastructure is weak or failing in many areas, and requires urgent attention.
  • There are numerous cases of corruption pending within the KM. Oversight processes are weak.
  • There is a large reservoir of management, engineering, and legal skills within the KM area, due to the large number of retirees living in the area. These skills have not been effectively utilised in the past.
  • The KM area has distinct first world and third world components, whose interests are often at odds with each other. The KM council must look after the interests of ALL its residents.
  • The KM cannot currently afford to hire expensive management consultants to address the many issues highlighted above.

The Challenge

The challenge, which this document attempts to address, is how to effectively and cheaply deploy the existing skills in the area in order to improve municipal services, without compromising the authority and responsibility of the elected representatives.

Any proposed solution which appears as a takeover of KM responsibilities, which disrespects the current officials, which is perceived as political or racist in any way, will predictably be rejected.  Any proposal which sidelines the roles and responsibilities of the councillors will never be accepted by the councillors.

Conversely, the KM must commit to cooperate fully with residents offering to share their time and skills, and must commit to seriously consider any recommendations which may arise. If carefully considered ideas and plans are simply dismissed or ignored, then this process will quickly fail.

The Proposal

In cooperation with the KM and Kouga businesses, a new not-for-profit entity is established to provide consulting services to the KM. For the sake of convenience let this entity be known as the KM Consulting Group (KMCG) within this document (Any other name can be chosen at a later date).

  • The KMCG will be registered as a legal entity, such as a CC or company or NPO, a board of directors will be appointed, and a voluntary staff recruited from local businessmen and residents.
  • The objective of KMCG is to provide consulting services to the KM at little or no cost, utilising the voluntary services of skilled retirees.
  • The KMCG will maintain a database of skills in the local population which may be called upon.
  • The KMCG will require some startup funding and support from the local community. Facilities such as meeting rooms, photocopy facilities, printing and stationery will be sourced from local businesses.
  • The KM will present specific issues, questions or problems to the board of KMCG, who will then setup project teams to investigate these issues and propose a solution in the form of a written report.
  • The KM will ensure that all the information and access to staff required by the project team is provided in good time. Where this access is not forthcoming, the project will be suspended.
  • The KM will consider these reports, request modifications or explanations, then present the finalised reports to the KM management or the council for action.
  • The KMCG project team will remain available to advise the KM on implementation of any accepted project.
  • Each project team will prepare a detailed plan and budget for the consulting exercise, costing all work at market-related rates. Each project will require approval from the KMCG board before commencing. The Rand value of each consulting project will be carefully calculated and recorded.
  • The KM will not be charged for a consulting project. Thus no tender or purchase procedures will be required before commencing the project. However, the KM must show the cost of each consulting project as an asset in its financial reports.
  • The KMCG board and staff and consultants will receive no remuneration for their services, which are entirely voluntary. Out of pocket expenses will be reimbursed on presentation of documentation, where possible. Nevertheless, strict hourly recordkeeping will be maintained in order to correctly evaluate the cost of the project and its performance against budget.
  • The objective of each consulting project is to offer specific practical advice on specific problems identified by the KM. The advice must avoid generalisation, politics, personal references, and ambiguity. The project report will contain a detailed breakdown of costs, staffing, materials, etc required for successful execution of the recommendations.

Project Examples

An illustrative list of possible projects is given below:
  1. 2012 Budget development
  2. Sewage plant engineering options
  3. Revenue boosting alternatives
  4. Potential cost savings in KM
  5. Staffing reduction processes
  6. Improved tender controls
  7. Financial monitoring proposal
  8. Low cost housing planning
  9. Employment strategies for Kouga
  10. Alternative health strategies for Kouga
  11. Infrastructure maintenance strategies on a low budget
  12. Paradise Beach Swamp drainage strategies


The purpose of this proposal is to suggest a strategy whereby the many unused skills available in the Kouga region can be usefully deployed to the benefit of the Kouga Municipality and the inhabitants of the area.  The proposal does not infringe on the autonomy of the KM or the council, will not add any financial burden to the already hard-pressed KM finances, but will provide them with a source of expert advice on the many difficult problems they face. It will require a major contribution of time and effort from some sectors of the population, who are already quite heavily taxed.  It will require mutual respect and cooperation from all parties.

However, if it leads to an improvement in the conditions in our small corner of paradise, it will be worth it.

Trevor Watkins
Sunday, 16 October 2011