Just bypass the bureaucrats in local government. Stop playing their game by their rules. Write them off as the useless incompetents that they are. Begging some lazy and unmotivated municipal official to finally get around to fixing your specific problem is a shortcut to a heart attack or a nervous breakdown.
Of course it is expensive. Of course you have a right to service for your taxes. Of course something should be done. But have you noticed that the situation has been like this for years, that it is not getting better, and that the quality of your life is getting worse? How bad does it have to get before you try a different approach?
Pay as little tax (rates) as you possibly can. Don’t waste your time begging for services. Organise yourself and your neighbours to provide the services you need, for yourselves. Farmers have been doing it for years – if your water is no good, sink your own borehole and filter it yourself. If the road outside your house is full of potholes, fix them. If your sewerage is overflowing, put in your own septic tank, or hire a private sewerage disposal company.
There are some key issues to consider:
- Don’t try to become a parallel municipality, where now you are in charge. Everything must be voluntary, or else it is just another tax. If you can’t get enough people to support a particular idea or project, then it shouldn’t be done.
- Keep it simple. Avoid complexity. Form small, local street committees amongst people you see everyday. Have many projects and few meetings. Plan to have fun.
- Never require payment for something in advance of its imminent delivery. Only ask for funding for very specific purposes, rather than large annual contributions for no specific project. Small projects with early completion dates costing a small amount are much better than huge projects with giant war chests which must be collected before they can even begin.
- Don’t worry about free riders. If YOU and a few others think it is worth doing, then do it without giving a thought to others who may benefit without paying. They are free riders today, tomorrow you will free ride on them.
- Get organised. Understand the difficulties up front. Know what you are letting yourself in for. This is almost certainly not a full time job for you. Don’t be embarassed to make a profit, and pay a dividend to your members/workers, because all unpaid voluntary work ends in disillusionment after about 9 months .
- Keep close track of the money. Disagreements over money destroy many successful relationships and partnerships. Use an accounting system.
- Communicate often, clearly and briefly. Use technology. Don’t go dark. Advertise your successes, acknowledge your mistakes
- Be willing to cooperate as much as possible. Don’t succumb to “not invented here” syndrome, or the desire to own and control everything.
- Be careful of democracy. Just because a majority thinks something is a good idea does not mean you can force someone who doesn’t like the idea to do it. Remember, the only power you may exercise is persuasion.
Specific ideas for Jeffreys Bay
- Consider bringing many small projects together under one loose umbrella. You don’t need to duplicate bank accounts and charges, membership databases, accounting systems, communication and administration costs, audit fees, etc, if you can work out a fair and cooperative structure between new and existing organisations.
- For example, consider using the Jeffreys Bay Residents Association (JBRA) or some similar existing organisation as the umbrella body. Use its bank account, membership database, accounting system, website, and communication channels, rather than develop duplicate ones. For each street committee, project, conservancy, etc, establish a unique identity and account within the JBRA accounting system. Ringfence funds to and from these projects. Publish monthly accounts.
- Strengthen the JBRA committee structure to incorporate all sub-structures such as Dorp van Drome, Kloof conservancy, etc. The JBRA would have no say in how these sub-structures organise themselves, but would simply provide common administrative and accounting facilities. If these are already in place, consider sharing them.
- Beware of possible fraud and malfeasance with many new, small structures requesting funds and offering services to the community. Some sort of credibility and accountability must be provided, otherwise every chancer will start a street committee and request payment in advance, into his own bank account.
- Allow for failures. Most good ideas degenerate rapidly into work. Very few voluntary committees keep their enthusiasm for longer than 9 months. Setup a structure with some history, some continuity, some legal standing.
This short note outlines an alternative, non-violent and non-confrontational way of dealing with the reality of collapsing services in South Africa. Instead of burning infrastructure in violent and usually pointless confrontations with authority, simply bypass them and get on with building and repairing your own infrastructure.