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The Captain of the Ship

For many years now Captain Alan Smaldon has been guiding the ship Cowra through some turbulent waters. The Ethekwini  Council, just like the sea, is a master unto itself and just when you think that you are mastering it, the weather changes and so do all the rules. As the saying goes, anyone can steer the ship when the sea is calm, the true sailor is the one that can sail the ship safely in turbulent waters.

Alan Smaldon has done exactly that. He has watched the rules change, the people change and Council change but he has kept Cowra focused on the objectives ensuring that service delivery is at least kept up and that the members are informed. A difficult task to say the least, as getting a response from the Council is like finding hens teeth. Not many people know how many emails and phone calls happen on a daily basis to try a resolve issues even when they are really simple ones.

Alan joined the Gillitts Ratepayers and Residents Association in 2001 after retiring from sea life which spanned some 44 years.  In 2003 he became Chairman until the ratepayers association of Gillitts and Kloof amalgamated but still remained a Committee member. In 2008 he became Chairman of COWRA.

Alan Smaldons final voyage as Captain is complete as he retired as Chairman of Cowra last month but will remain on the committee for a further six months to assist me while I learn the ropes. His years of service to the community was done for no remuneration only accepting that the area covered by Cowra namely Kloof, Gillitts, St. Helier, Everton, Forest Hills, Stockville and Winston Park, is better off now having had the Council respond to traffic enforcement, road markings / signage / pot holes and sidewalk repairs / electricity faults and arguing against many cases of commerce encroachment that affect each and every one of us. I would like to thank Alan for all he has done for the community and wish him a happy and healthy retirement.

Of concern to the Cowra committee is the gradual reduction in membership over time. The R 70 per household per annum is really a nominal amount to fund the operations of Cowra. Membership does not seem to be an attraction for the younger generations although all people living in the area will be affected equally by decisions made by the Council. We handed out hundreds of pamphlets and membership application forms with a zero response so I am asking for suggestions on how we can increase the level of participation by the 10,000 possible members in our area. I look forward to your input as ratepayer organisations nationally have dwindled and I don’t think that is in any of our interests.

Regards

Dave Ferguson

Chairman’s Report – 2015

CHAIRMANS REPORT

Many thanks to you all for attending this meeting, I trust you enjoyed the talk and found it interesting and beneficial. Seated amongst you are our Committee Members;  they are Carmen Brunette (Secretary), Birgit Kaiser (Treasurer), Malcolm Chadbourne (Vice Chairman), Billy Archary (Stockville representative), Francois  Zinserling (Newsletter Editor),  Richard Hancox (Environment) and David Ferguson;  also present is none other than Rick Crouch (Ward 10 Councillor).

Load Shedding:

A major problem we have had this past year is, of course, load shedding. eThekwini’s schedule in the main has been accurate although an area of Kloof behind the Maytime Centre falls under Block 8 for outages, not Block 4. Also other areas of Kloof in the Abelia Road region appear to be now experiencing Block 11 outage times. When I inquired about this I was told a transformer in that area had broken down therefore the power had to be supplied from a Pinetown sub-station. This Block 11 is rather a strange one for the main area it covers is down there in Amanzimtoti yet it has 2 separate enclaves; one includes Fields Hill, Manors, Pinetown West and the other the Congella region. Looking at a map produced by Metro Electricity it has basically divided Durban and suburbs into Residential, Commercial and Industrial Blocks with the result Residential and Commercial Blocks bear the brunt of load shedding, namely Stages 1 and 2 whilst Industrial ones experience none at all until Stage 3 is reached.

Income survey:

We have been informed the change of rules requiring all beneficiaries to apply for the R105000 Rate Rebate decided upon by Council will come into effect next year when all ratepayers will have to apply for this. This will put a considerable strain on the Rates offices for we all will have to go along there in order to claim these rebates whilst what are the elderly, infirm and disabled going to do?

According to the Property Rates Act a Municipality has to carry out a valuation of all properties within its boundaries at 4 yearly intervals; this was last carried out by eThekwini in 2011, the results becoming valid in 2012. I checked with the Real Estate Head to see if valuations would be carried out this year and was informed eThekwini Municipality made application for an extension as per legislation for a further year which was granted by the MEC. Valuations will now likely be carried out around July next year.

In the Mercury I saw a Public Notice regarding the 2016/2017 Draft rates Policy which I have downloaded and am busy analysing in order to let you know what to look out for. This is open for comments until 31st January 2016 so I am busy examining it in order to ask as many as possible to remark on it.

Stockville Road upgrade:

Delays in the Stage 3 project have been caused mainly by new legislation such as the Water Use Licence Act and the fact an Occupational Health and Safety Officer has now to be appointed. Negotiations have been made with eThekwini Traffic Authorities to allow the Road Traffic Management Plan to be used, now it is hoped to commence operations in October of this year during the school holiday break.

Ward 10 Boundaries:

Councillor Crouch has informed me he received a draft copy of the Ward Demarcation results, the enjoyable news being that Ward 10 boundaries remain as before. Thus we can pat ourselves on the back as a large number of residents protested against the proposed amendments,  thanks to the efforts of Rick and other DA members. One word of warning is that this being only a draft copy there is a chance some ANC Councillors may appeal against the decision.

City Manager:

There was a letter to the Editor in the Mercury from a Durban resident who obviously had the same opinion of the present City Manager as I have. This is leading to the fact our Municipality is heading on a downhill path since Dr Sutcliffe was replaced by Mr Sithole who obviously cannot manage the workload of a City Manager so much so he has arranged for 2 Deputy Managers at R1.7 million year salaries to be appointed! Now we are battling with the Town Planning centre here up in the Outer West for a number of the wrong type of persons have been appointed to quite senior positions there; they seem to have a culture which says why work at all when you’ll be paid anyway and, in this country, that type of individual is not going to be disciplined!

eThekwini:

This year was the worst I can remember due to the lack of response from eThekwini, in particular the Land Use Management, once known as Town Planning, out here in the Outer West. We took it upon our Association to report items such a s illegal businesses and also to forward comments when rezoning adverts were either placed in The Mercury or brought to our attention by local residents. Normally when the former things are reported a Senior Technical Planner is given the authority to deal with it but last year the 2 or 3 persons in this position did nothing at first. Time and time again I e-mailed then, called then and even obtained photos of the problem which were forwarded but nothing significant was carried out. Eventually I became so disappointed that I forwarded a complaint to the Municipal Head of this Department yet received no reply!

A couple of eThekwini’s administration Departments do give good service delivery, being Revenue, and Metro Water. eThekwini’s website, http://www.durban.gov.za/Pages/default.aspx, has the following to say: “It consists of a diverse society which faces various social, economic, environmental and governance challenges. As a result, it strives to address these challenges which mean meeting the needs of an ever increasing population.” It also claims that by 2020 the Municipality will enjoy the reputation of being Africa’s most liveable and caring City.

Finally I have to inform you I am resigning the Chairmanship at our January meeting but intend staying on the committee in order to keep you all updated on crime issues and also the Rates and Tariffs for the next financial year.

Regards,
Alan Smaldon
Chairman – COWRA