Ratepayers associations are organisations formed by groups of people from a specific geographic community who come together to address issues within their local area and act as a voice for their community. Some associations form to address one specific issue. Quite often some major and controversial local issue is the stimulus to form an association. Others address a wider spectrum of matters. In the past, Ratepayer Associations seemed to have a say in the running of a municipality. With the advent of Ward Committee’s this has toned that down somewhat although we do find that personnel will listen and assist when possible.

South Africa is a beautiful country, rich in Industry and fast growing on international markets. South Africa – if led by the right people with the nation’s best interests at heart would be labeled as a country of success. We as ratepayers thus should be able to benefit from what we put into the municipalities and the country but, at present, very little seems to come back our way.

So far, here in Ethekwini, we have been fortunate enough to have a municipality that is not noticeably deteriorating. Service delivery, although not outstanding, is still within reasonable levels. However increased rates, cost of electricity, water tariffs and wasteful expenditure are slowly eroding away at the present standard. Therefore we could, in the next few years, find ourselves in the same position as that of many other municipalities in the country. This could possibly lead to the only option in this country and that is to go to courts. This is a very expensive process but the municipalities do not mind as they use the ratepayers’ money to fight their court cases, whereas anyone opposing the municipality has to pay for his own legal fees. For example, recently our chairperson tried to obtain legal opinion on the survey conducted by eThekwini on the income of pensioners; He was quoted a figure which would have taken a big chunk out of our bank balance. The COWRA committee felt this was unacceptable. The only way to take the municipality to court on behalf of residents, is to have sufficient membership whose subscriptions will assist in paying necessary legal fees.

Other work we do is to assist residents by keeping them informed of rate and utility increases, budget figures, localised transport and road projects which will interfere with vehicular movement within our boundaries and a host of other items. To do this we need numerical and financial support from our local community, something which at the moment, is slowly disappearing. We know that other commitments such as security companies and neighborhood watch organisations compete with us on a financial basis, but it is important not to ignore the contributions ratepayers associations make towards the community.