The Jeffrey’s Bay Residents Association (the JBRA) is, to use a bit of jargon, a voluntary association and a community based organization. As such it holds an annual general meeting at which the membership make essential decisions concerning the organization. The AGM for 2012 was held at Newton Hall on Wednesday 22nd February with the Honourable Ms Elza van Lingen as the special guest speaker.
Apart from the address of the guest speaker - which I will return to - the meeting performed many of the functions necessary to give a voluntary association life. On a sad and unfortunate note the organization passed its condolences to the 2011 chairperson Mr Trevor Watkins, and his family, on the passing of his beloved wife. The vice chair Dr Barnard therefore assumed responsibility for conducting the meeting. A brief presentation of the finances of the organization was given and whilst we are by no means an affluent body our financial position is healthy and sustainable. Further an amendment to the association constitution was passed. This provides for a system of free non-voting membership.
Finally office bearers for the organization were selected. I (Paul Hjul) have been designated as the Chairperson for 2012 - a daunting task in light of the tireless service of my predecessor. I hope that, despite my (relative - as my younger siblings and mother remind me) youth, I will be able to build on the firm foundation on which the organization rests. I hope to contribute towards improving the town for the residents. Other office bearers were not finalized however a meeting of the committee approved at the AGM will be held soon.
General consensus appears to be that the special address delivered had a general effect of undermining the principal business aspects of the AGM, and causing harm to the association’s credibility as an independent community based organization. This requires me to make some comment, albeit with trepidation:
The JBRA is not a political party, nor is it aligned to any political party. The decision to invite the Honourable Ms Elza van Lingen was not intended to suggest any alignment with the politics of Ms van Lingen. Instead the invitation was afforded to a senior office bearer in the Parliament of the Republic and our provincial legislature. A person who has considerable knowledge on issues relating to this area. In previous years invitations have been extended to the Mayor of the Kouga Municipality - who was a member of a different political party.
As the chairperson of the association I will be writing to Ms van Lingen to establish whether there has been any misunderstanding between the JBRA and herself; as well as to apprise her of the complaints which I have received. However I believe it to be inappropriate for me, or the organization to comment on what Ms van Lingen should or should not have done with the platform afforded to her at the AGM of the JBRA. I therefore only ask that the public understand that at functions of this nature the person afforded the privilege of delivering the address is customarily afforded a great deal of latitude. They may express opinions which are not those of the organization. It has therefore happened around the world that university graduations have been on occasion marked by an address to the graduates which thoroughly (and even unfairly) criticises the University. As an organization in an open and democratic society - which prizes freedom - the idea of controlling an invited guest is not only inhospitable but also repugnant to our ethos. However the incident does highly the fact that the major political parties in South Africa are on a path that threatens the autonomy and integrity of residents and ratespayers associations. In light of this, after fully apprising myself of the situation and in consultation with other residents and ratespayers associations, I will write to the leadership of the major political parties to express the concerns. I trust that these steps are sufficient to put the potentially divisive matter to rest.
As a community based organization it is our purpose and duty to promote and develop the community of Jeffrey’s Bay. It is our job to make Jeffrey’s Bay a nice town, in a nice region. A nice town is an inclusive town. We have made a major stride towards enhancing our inclusivity by amending the organization’s constitution to entrench the practice of having a pool of free (non-voting) membership. We will not limit ourselves to the interests of a section of the community or to the supporters of a particular political organization - or religious denomination for that matter. We will continue our efforts to develop a sense of community within Jeffrey’s Bay and hope to see the emergence and growth of neighbouring residents associations.
I hope that we can succeed and request the assistance from the community to enable 2012 to be a prosperous year for the residents of Jeffrey’s Bay.