Michele du Plessis
The role of our local municipalities are to fulfil their obligations is to serve the people. Local government is the sphere of government closest to the people. Local municipalities deliver basic services and in exchange for these basic services, we pay rates and taxes, municipal accounts, electricity and so forth.
Unfortunately, we do not always receive what we pay for. There is no money-back guarantee if you pay and they do not deliver. People get distraught, disgruntled, fuming, and then furious: do you want to face an angry mob that protest because you are not doing your job? Or if you are an exposed corrupt official? I wouldn’t want to either, but then again, I am not an employee of Thaba Chweu Local Municipality.
The residents of Graskop had enough, so they got furious and protested. Then they took things into their own hands and proudly declared: “Together we can make a difference.”
Basic services that the municipality must provide include the following. Lance Gibson, chairman of the Graskop Ratepayers Association, was asked to rate TCLM’s services in Graskop out of 10:
- Electricity 5/10
- Water 4/10
- Sewage and sanitation 2/10
- Stormwater system 1/10
- Refuse removal 8/10
- Firefighting 5/10
- Municipal health 6/10
- Decisions around land use 0/10: Residents at extension 5 and Chinese development still waiting for title deeds. Many officials were allowed to claim more than one home. Shack dwellers at the hostels have been waiting for years on empty promises of the proclamation of stands.
- Municipal roads 0/10:Our residential roads have been neglected and are in a state.
- Public transport: – 0/10 Non existent
- Street trading – 0/10:No plan in existence to create proper street markets and stalls.
- Abattoirs and fresh food markets 0/10:No abattoirs in Graskop and Fresh food markets are poorly controlled.
- Parks and recreational facilities 0/10:All in a state of total disrepair
- Libraries and other facilities 1/10: Poor control and books on the floor of the library. No other facilities whatsoever.
- Local tourism 0/10:There is no plan or any assistance from the municipality to promote local tourism. Road markings and information sights very poor.
Lance Gibson gave a fair assessment, but many Graskop residents would have given a much lower score. If the problems experienced by residents of Graskop, Sabie and Lydenburg is taken into account, it is no surprise that TCLM is under administration and the GRA is taking action against TCLM.
“In my opinion, anyone that continues to pay rates and taxes after all that is happening and the option we now have to fight back is complicit in the mismanagement and misappropriation that is taking place. This is our chance to get the municipality dissolve, it is a once-off chance which must be done correctly and taken now. If we blow this we can kiss our town goodbye,” Lance said.
“By paying your rates and taxes to TCLM you are effectively complicit in destroying our town by allowing misappropriation and mismanagement to continue unabated. Look at the state of Church Street and others, look at the sewage flowing into the wetlands near Flycatchers castle, look at the unfinished work on the water reticulation system in President and Hugenote Street, and look at the poor planning and delays of the road construction in Louis Trichardt Avenue. The debt to Eskom probably is now over 800 million. It’s not going to be easy, but we have an opportunity to stop this now, but we have to be 100% procedurally correct. Please follow the guidelines that we have posted and support the GRA.
The account has been opened in strict accordance to NPO regulations, with 3 signatories of which any two must authorise any payments. Signatories are me, Ismael Sarong of Horizon View Chalets and Barbara Coetzer, our bookkeeper. Money must be paid into the ratepayers’ account to keep proper control and for us to get legal support. 5% of the money paid in will go to the National Taxpayers Union so that we get this assistance if needed,” Lance continued.
GRA has appointed André Doman of Doman Weitze attorneys to assist with all disputes between us and TCLM.
At a recent meeting, Mr Doman confirmed there is no evidence of promulgation of property rates from 01 July 2005 – 30 June 2016 and also from 1 July 2020 up to date. “So legally we don’t have to pay taxes to the municipality, but he advises that we carry on as we are by paying into our GRA account and declaring the dispute. Also legally the municipality has to refund all taxes paid during years of non-promulgation. He is preparing an affidavit to this effect and will send me his advice on a further course of action that needs be taken by us.
In the meantime, we encourage all ratepayers to calculate the amount paid during these years of non-promulgation and complete the dispute letter. This amount claimed by us will become a debt by TCLM to us and will assist us in forcing the province’s administrator in placing them under full administration. We are also finalising membership forms and fee for GRA membership. This will assist us in defending a member’s legal rights with any disputes with TCLM. Whilst TCLM has been issued a financial recovery plan by the province we cannot find promulgation of an administration order as has been reported in the media,” said Lance.
“In conclusion the entire ward 10 community must support the GRA in this fight against misappropriation and mismanagement by TCLM officials and we hope that SRA and the 3 town’s business chambers will also get behind us. The time of appeasement politics is over, now is the time to make a stand.”