Monday, 5 March 2012

JBRA Chairman's report for 2011/12

Jeffreys Bay Residents Association

Chairmans report delivered at AGM on 22nd February 2012

Fellow residents, honoured guests, councillors and members of the JBRA committee,

It is my honour and duty to present the chairman’s report for our residents association for the past year. I wish to start by thanking the members of the committee for their efforts, particularly those who have survived an entire year.

When I accepted the position of chairman of the JBRA at the last AGM I set 3 major goals for the year. The first goal was to increase membership, the second goal was to engage effectively with the Kouga Municipality, and the third goal was to participate effectively in FEKRRA, the federation of residents associations.

The major reason for increasing membership is to improve communication within the Jeffreys Bay community. Our aim was to get current contact information for as many residents as possible by registering them in our database. The second reason is to be able to speak with authority when negotiating with the Kouga Municipality. Politicians are only impressed by the number of voters you represent. Although the JBRA needs an income to do its job effectively, increased membership income was never a major consideration.

Total registered membership of the JBRA now sits at 700 residents, an approximately 10-fold increase over the membership for the previous year. Of these 700, 181 have paid the annual fee and may vote at meetings such as this. Based on this registered membership, the JBRA is now the biggest and one of the most active residents associations in Kouga.

Our second goal was to engage effectively with the Kouga Municipality. The committee has had numerous high level meetings with the KM, submitted many documents, requests and demands, published articles on our blog and in the local press, largely to no avail. I regret to say that our impact on the governance of Kouga has been minimal. By and large, our many suggestions and requests have been ignored.  This frustration is shared by the other residents associations in FEKRRA, and was raised again with the mayor and MM at a meeting this morning. The JBRA has setup a system for filing individual disputes with the KM, which may assist in getting some issues resolved more effectively.

Our third goal was to participate effectively in FEKRRA. After the unfortunate death of Joe Oosthuizen, the FEKRRA chairman, this organisation became very quiet.  About halfway through the year a new committee was elected, of which I am vice-chairman.  I assisted FEKRRA by setting up a website, and also helped setup a website for our sister RA in Paradise Beach/Aston Bay. FEKRRA has had 3 meetings with the KM since then, the last as recently as this morning. If FEKRRA’s demands are not met soon then we can expect legal action to follow in the near future.

The main task of a residents association is to improve communication, between members, with the municipality, and with the world at large. The Arab Spring has highlighted the importance of modern electronic communications in civil society.  A lot of effort this year has been devoted to improving communication to residents and between residents:
  • A comprehensive website was setup at Local news, useful documents, links to relevant local sites, calendars, maps, online registrations are all available on the website.
  • A new blog was setup, and many articles were posted by the committee.
  • The JAG email discussion group was established.
  • The Mobilitate website was discovered and put to use for J Bay issues.
  • The Crimespotter CPF facility was setup, including the emergency SMS facility. 
  • A database of all members details is maintained, and regular emails and SMSs are sent to all registered members. 

Despite all this effort, the involvement of J Bay residents in these initiatives has been poor. 
  • Very few read the blog, almost no one comments, and only 3 or 4 people have submitted articles to the blog in a year.
  • Only 50 people replied to several hundred invitations to join the JAG email group.
  • Only 50 people have joined the Crimespotter CPF, and no one has logged any crimes in the past several months.
  • Only 2 or 3 people have logged any issues on the Mobilitate website. So far, only one of the 3 councillors in the JBRA area has managed to register themselves on Mobilitate and respond to the 50 or so issues logged there. 

There are lots of reasons for this apathy, but very few excuses.  Instead of a vibrant and dynamic exchange of ideas about J Bay and its circumstances, we have the spectacle of 2 or 3 people shouting down a hole, uncertain if anyone is actually listening.

The 2011 committee launched a number of initiatives in the course of the year:
  • voting and non-voting membership
  • Residents Projects, where residents undertake their own local civic maintenance, such as the cleanup undertaken by the committee during the municipal strike
  • declaring individual disputes with the KM using a local lawyer
  • a quarterly public meeting and a quarterly newsletter
  • the Legal Watchdog committee
  • the idea of issuing fines to the KM for services not correctly performed
  • the proposal to form a consulting group to advise and assist the KM for free

I believe the JBRA was instrumental in
  • having the new housing development in Ocean View sent for further investigation
  • focussing attention on the billing fiasco at the KM
  • focussing attention on issues such as sewage spills, brown water in Wavecrest, potholes, etc
  • influencing the development of the 2012 IDP and budget
  • focussing attention on financial irregularities in the KM
  • resolving some issues at the J Bay Caravan Park

I believe that our new mayoral committee and council are somewhat better than the previous  disastrous bunch,  in the same way that a poke in just one eye with a sharp stick is better than a poke in both eyes.  The auditor general has declared the KM officially bankrupt, a fact which we pointed out 6 months ago. Like the rest of South Africa, the Kouga Municipality finds itself  dealing with the inevitable consequences of bad policies and bad management. This steady decline to 3rd world standards can only be reversed when sensible policies are implemented by competent managers.

However, despite all the doom and gloom, most of us in this room stay in nice houses on clean streets with electricity, running water and reasonable sewage. That puts us way ahead of most of the rest of our fellow citizens in Kouga, a fact we forget at our peril.

In conclusion, I believe that the JBRA has made some significant strides in the last year, by increasing membership, by communicating better, by engaging with the KM regularly. However, I believe that the situation in J Bay has got worse in the last year, not better, and that much remains for the new committee to tackle.

Trevor Watkins

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