Makhanda residents do not trust the local municipality because of its debilitating record of corruption and mismanagement. The lack of trust is one of the major obstacles to the establishment of a Special Rates Area (SRA), as it would require the municipality to collect additional rates from residents and then pay that amount to the SRA.
Kevin Slattery, a former chair of the Richmond Hill SRA in Port Elizabeth, came to speak to a group of Makhanda residents who had expressed an interest in establishing an SRA in the municipal area. About 40 residents attended the informal meeting at the Graham Hotel on Thursday evening.
Richmond Hill is a suburb in the Central Business District (CBD) of Port Elizabeth. It is primarily a residential area, but has historical buildings and some businesses.
Slattery spoke about the circumstances that prompted the residents of that suburb to set up an SRA. The biggest problem was crime, followed closely by an array of difficulties usually associated with urban decay.
Early on, they tried organising their own visible policing to combat crime, but that created its own problems that were resolved by outsourcing the patrolling to a security company.
He explained that one of the key objectives of the plan was to protect property values, not necessarily increase them.
After doing some research, Slattery and other residents decided that the best way of addressing the challenges facing their community was to set up an SRA.
In order to this, the local municipality has to give its approval and a majority of the residents need to buy into the plan.
The Chief Financial Officer of Makana, Gerard Goliath, was present at the meeting and assured everyone that the Council would most certainly give its permission because it had nothing to lose from granting its approval. He said that the legal framework for such a body already existed.
People at the meeting were not happy that as individuals they might reject the measure yet still be required to pay the additional levy.
Slattery explained that even if only 51% of residents approved the establishment of an SRA, all property owners in the area would still be required to belong to it and pay the levy. He said that a democratic principle is applied and everyone in the area has to accept the decisions of the majority.
The levy is based on the equitable distribution of costs calculated as a percentage of normal municipal rates. Slattery said that he personally pays about R700 per month in normal rates and a further R78 for the SRA.
There are 1 400 properties in the Richmond Hill SRA which allows them to collect about R100 000 per month.
This amount is enough to pay for 24-hour patrolling 365 days per year; a person who drives around in a bakkie and tidies up; as well as an office person who comes in part-time to help with administrative duties.
Slattery said that an SRA is a statutory body that is managed by a Board with a five-year business plan. If Makhanda residents wish to set up an SRA, they should first establish what their needs are and then set them in order of priority.
He stressed that the SRA is not a replacement for municipal services; it should rather be seen as a ‘top-up’ service. The Board should maintain good relationships with local officials and particularly the local police force.
Prominent local advocate, Izak Smuts, said that the viability of an SRA in Makhanda depended largely on the “Monty Pythonesque” property re-evaluation process that the local Council was trying to implement.
Readers who wish to find out more about the Richmond Hill SRA should check out their website: http://rhsra.co.za/