September 2022 Quarterly Report

With your continued support the HRA will continue its efforts to be a facilitator between the people and the establishment

– Brian Wridgway

Undercurrents of dissatisfaction

In the mid-year Quarterly report I mentioned the undercurrent of dissatisfaction which has permeated much of the interaction between the citizenry and the municipality on a number of issues. I wish that I could tell you that the situation has improved but it hasn’t. If anything relationships have become more fractured. A recent request to discuss an issue with a senior municipal official was met with a refusal and an instruction to discuss it with my Councillor. We have however had an invitation as the EXCO to meet with the Mayor and her Mayoral Committee and hope to arrange this soon.

The constitution of the HRA compels us to seek to work in cooperation with the Municipality and we will continue to do so despite the obstacles we face from time to time. We will always base our efforts on the promotion or the defence of principle. That having been said mention is made in this report of people but only in the context of our defence of principle.

WARD COMMITTEES

Rules are rules… or are they?

Having written to both Mayor and Speaker about the dysfunctional Ward Committee system over a number of weeks, all I received were warm assurances that the situation was being attended to. At this point there is no progress.

Following representations to the Provincial department of Local Government and an appeal to the Premier by a third party a meeting of WC members was called by the Speaker to discuss the situation. Representations on amendments to the rules were also

invited. Sadly, in what is becoming typical, little or no debate was permitted. The Mayor presented her vision of how WC meetings should take place in sync with both Portfolio and Council meetings so that issues could be addressed. We are now back to square one and we have no idea of when meetings will take place as there is no schedule and we are not able to plan ahead. Consultation is non-existent and the rubber is not meeting the road.

So what is at play here and what are the key issues? I suggest that there are two things:

Firstly we have a situation where one sided decision making has replaced constructive engagement on issues pertaining to the operation of the municipality. Council, as represented by the Speaker and Mayor, has chosen to disregard the rules which were adopted in April 2021. All protestation has been ignored.

Secondly the basic tenets of Good Governance espoused by the ruling party in Council have been violated. The Democratic Alliance Manifesto speaks of the principles of Freedom, Fairness, Opportunity, and Diversity underpinned by Constitutionality and the Rule of Law. Where then is there space for a DA-led Council to disregard its own rules? If we are to be a law abiding society, we are not at liberty to pick and choose which rules we will abide by and which not.

THE BYPASS

No more guesswork

Following a lengthy process of tracking down the right individuals to speak to, and amid a departmental restructure, our enquiries about the status of the environmental impact assessment for the Bypass finally elicited a response from Colleen Smart of the Western Cape Ministry of Infrastructure.

We learned the following:

  • With the approval of the provincial Department of Infrastructure the SRK environmental practitioner continues to seek approval of the EIA, which if obtained will give the green light to the Bypass.
  • [The full range of amended documents can be found on the SRK website: https://www.srk.com/en/public-documents/hermanus-cbd-bypass-eia-
  • For a quick overview, read: Summary: Amended Final Environmental Impact Assessment Report Proposed New CBD Bypass Road in Hermanus.]
  • The Department’s justification and motivation are based on two bits of correspondence received from the Overstrand Municipality, one requesting investigation of the feasibility of the Bypass as well as a memorandum pledging its support.
  • Notwithstanding the fact that the Bypass does not currently appear on the provincial IDP it nevertheless remains a part of the department’s Land Transport Framework and part of their future plans.

There is now no more guesswork and although there are no immediate plans we will, at some future date, have to take up the fight against the Bypass.

FERNKLOOF NATURE RESERVE

The good news: a Memorandum of Understanding

The good news is that a Memorandum of Understanding between the Hermanus Botanical Society and the Overstrand Municipality has been signed and the hope is that this will enable closer and more productive co-operation between the parties. Well done to all involved!

The issue of the composition of the Fernkloof Advisory Board has been referred to the Provincial MEC for the Environment for approval.

The bad news: increased criminality

The bad news is that there have been a number of incidents of criminal activity in the nature reserve. Apart from the activity of those gathering herbs and wildlife, a number of visitors have been robbed under threat of violence. With the ease of access to FNR it is an almost impossible task to exercise any kind of control. Suggestions have been made to install cameras linked to the municipal network and discussion on this topic continues. If you visit the reserve, please do not take any valuables with you and please don’t walk alone.

Unfortunately, similar incidents of criminal activity are becoming increasingly regular in other parts of greater Hermanus, including Rotary Drive, the Cliff Path, and elsewhere.

THE EXCO

New faces

I am happy to inform you that Anne Stern, a resident of Hillside Village, has accepted our invitation to join the EXCO of the HRA. Anne has a long career as a qualified lawyer, doing litigation and family law, then more than 20 years as a specialist intellectual property attorney. A highlight of her career was representing the SA wine industry in the Port and Sherry battle with the EU in Brussels. She also holds a doctorate in literature and philosophy. Although Municipal Law is new to her, she has grasped the challenge of learning a new field with enthusiasm.

We welcome Anne and trust that she will add much value to our efforts to serve our members.

We are also fortunate to have been offered the services of an experienced Town Planner in the persona of Jan Visagie. Although Jan is not a resident in Hermanus he nevertheless works with the Overstrand Planning Scheme on an almost daily basis and will be able to offer appropriate opinion on planning issues. Although Jan will not serve on our EXCO we look forward to working together in the future.

HERMANUS PUBLIC PROTECTION (HPP)

A new board of directors

We are pleased to note the appointment of a new board of directors at HPP and look forward to working closely with Jerry Van Niekerk and his team. HPP is fortunate in having Marcia Bown as the Executive Officer exercising oversight of the day-to-day operations and we are confident that she will ensure there is a smooth transition between management teams.

The HRA has been invited to participate in a strategic planning exercise later this month as HPP examines its current role and strategises for the challenges it will face in the future in the context of our rapidly changing socio-economic environment.

SCHULPHOEK

A dream deferred…

At its September meeting the Council rescinded the Land Availability Agreement which it had entered into with the Provincial Department of Human Settlements. This agreement made available the land acquired by the province from the owners for the development of the Better Living Model. Attempts made by the Interested and Affected Parties to formulate a social Compact which would determine the size and shape of the development constantly ran into one obstacle after another with vastly differing views as to what the development should look like and who should benefit.

Council agreed to hand the entire project of developing the land to a service provider who would be appointed through an open tender process. The logic behind the decision is that a third party would bring professional project management skills to the table and not be bedeviled by party politics. We hope that this approach will be successful.

SERVICE DELIVERY

…or maybe not

The intention behind the existing structure of a Municipality is that it is primarily responsible for delivering services to residents in its area of jurisdiction. This is the front line of Participative Democracy. The expectation is that it will be responsive to the needs of the various communities it is intended to serve.

A Municipality consists of three components, namely a Council elected by eligible voters, Ward Committees also elected by eligible voters, and an Administration. Council sets the political agenda, Ward Committees advise on priorities and concerns of their constituents and the Administration carries out statutory as well as politically defined responsibilities. That is the theory. The reality however is that things don’t always run the way they were designed, and this is at the heart of a lot of dissatisfaction being felt in Hermanus at present.

What follows is a list of many of the issues which have been raised at Ward Committee meetings and other fora regarding service delivery, but which remain unresolved:

  • The poor state of toilet facilities at our Blue Flag beaches and closure too early in the afternoon.
  • The lack of a Parking Management System in Hermanus against a background of struggling businesses.
  • Vagrancy, car washers and unofficial car guards in the CBD because the OM fails to enforce its own by-laws.
  • Crime and grime in the CBD and known HOT SPOTS not being monitored.
  • A much delayed “Cat-and-Dog Policy”.
  • A lack of visible enforcement of municipal by-laws.
  • A Complaints Management System which doesn’t work.
  • The state of the property (ERF-11440) at the Mountain Drive Main Road intersection where the municipality stores road and building materials and which has become an illegal dumpsite for building rubble, discarding pollutive asphalt and old asbestos items.
  • Disregard for and degradation of critical environmental, aquifer, water extraction, and infrastructure areas, in particular the greater Gateway area including ERF-11440 on the north side of Main Road.

This is not an exhaustive list but merely the hottest buttons at present.

IN CONCLUSION

It’s up to us…

It is often the case that the defence of and propagation of the values of a society are more effectively vested in its non-governmental institutions rather than in the political establishment and this principle holds true in our beautiful town. Hermanus has a proud tradition of societies and individuals making huge contributions to our quality of life and to the sense of place we are endowed with. With your continued support the HRA will continue its efforts to be a facilitator between the people and the establishment.

Until next time!

Brian Wridgway and the EXCO

Download the report in PDF

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