Introduction to Umdoni Action Group

1) UAG was established in September 2015 as a legally constituted body, the main objective of which is to promote and protect the interests and concerns of ratepayers, tenants and residents of the Umdoni municipal area, regardless of race, political affiliation or social standing.

2) In order to achieve its objectives, it has been necessary to engage with UM (Umdoni Municipality) in our attempts to assist, encourage or otherwise bring about positive changes to standards of service delivery throughout the Umdoni municipal area.

3) During the initial years of 2016 and 2017, a number of ostensibly worthwhile meetings were held with UM (at Mayoral and Municipal Manager level) and COGTA (at national and provincial level, and at forensic audit level) and the Public Protector’s provincial office. All indications at that time were that UAG was on the right track in our interactions with UM.

4) Unfortunately since the initial positive meetings, and perhaps coinciding with the integration of Vulamehlo with Umdoni and the consequent changeover of Mayor and MM, UAG has been mainly stonewalled by UM, in that even if we have received rare responses to our emails, or have had phone conversations or meetings with UM, the results have been no better than a continuous cycle of apologies-excuses-promises, but zero rectification or resolution by UM.

5) This unacceptable situation has been compounded by the additional damage to the SA economy (and consequently to our earnings and savings) caused by the extended Covid-19 Lockdown. Now is therefore an appropriate opportunity to say to UM no more abuse of our hard-earned funds.

Umdoni Municipal Rates Diversion / Retention

6) The topic of rates withholding has been discussed in Umdoni, and throughout SA, for many years. A few success stories have been publicised (Great Kei, Harrismith), but these have been with the co-operation of the local municipality. Unfortunately, UM has ignored the attempts of numerous bodies besides UAG, to work together constructively for the benefit of all Umdoni residents, irrespective of political persuasion or race. It is clear to those of us who have insight into the Umdoni Annual Budgets of the past many years, and to those who have travelled within the rural areas, that disproportionate amounts have been allocated to the non-ratepaying areas, to the exclusion and detriment of those who live and pay rates in the urban and suburban areas of Umdoni. The evidence lies before us: broken roads and stormwater systems, crumbling basic infrastructure, decrepit CBD, very few working street lights, overgrown verges and parks. The list is almost endless.

7) Although not directly related to what we are trying to achieve with UM, there is a recent case in which judgement was given in favour of residents against Makana (Grahamstown) Municipality
Most importantly, the municipality's application to appeal the judgement was refused 21 May 2020

8) UM has, at least for the past 3 years, failed to follow its own legislated processes in respect of ratepayer input and voting by Council. Consequently, the IDPs and Budgets for these years were legally defective. This defective process has been repeated as recently as 27 May in respect of the 2020-2021 IDPs and Budgets, compounded by the imposition of a 4.5% rates increase (in the case of residential properties). This is unconscionable and indicates that UM is out of touch with the economic reality faced by private sector ratepayers.

9) A list of numerous specific complaints made by 505 ratepayers were collected by UAG in a file which was emailed to the MM (Dr V Tsako) and to Customer Services (Ms Shanaz Khan) on 5 May 2019. Despite Ms Khan’s diligent attempts to have the problems rectified (per numerous email communications with UAG until 21 Dec 2019) there have been no noticeable rectifications by UM, and the consequent state of neglect has deteriorated even further during 2020.

10) The aforementioned factors have prompted UAG to pursue the last remaining option available to ratepayers, which is to update your specific complaints and participate in a properly organised Rates Diversion / Retention

11) This is a non-aggressive approach to UM to indicate that ratepayers throughout the Umdoni area are no longer prepared to continue, month after month, to pay for services which are continually not delivered, while we watch in dismay and frustration as our suburbs and towns fall apart.

12) UAG’s preferred strategy is to decentralise this Rates Diversion initiative to individual suburbs and towns, each with its own team / community leader, eg: Scottburgh / CBD / South, Park Rynie, Pennington, Sezela, Bazley, Umzinto, etc. Provision has been made via the above link for socially and organisationally active residents to volunteer their participation as representatives of their suburbs / towns.

Thank you.
Geoff Smailes
UAG Founder Member

UAG ExCo: Debbie Anderson; Philip Bacchus; Ione Bowman; Theunis Boyens; Sandie Curtis; Gareth Hampson; Judith Hampson; Goodman Ncobeni; Sharon Revell; Mike Schwikkard; Geoff Smailes; Justin Thiel (RIP: no longer with us, but not forgotten); Ricky Windell.

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” (Edmund Burke. Irish Orator & Philosopher. 1729-1797)

Please participate in our Rates Dispute and Diversion by clicking here