SFPO accused of ‘Shenanigans’ in SRA Vote

St Francis Today received the following comment in respect of the SRA regarding a post “Time to talk to each other, not the lawyers” published on Tuesday 9th October. On reading the comment we decided it necessary to solicit comment from St Francis Property Owners (SFPO) as the claim that there were “shenanigans used in coming up with the ‘majority’ deserves probing. If SFPO were indeed up to ‘shenanigans’ in the voting process then surely they, and the Kouga Municipality must be called to account for the reader is suggesting the process was fraudulent. However if the voting process was above board, the commenter’s claim of ‘shenanigans’ could be deemed slanderous

The readers comment follows

“Although I reluctantly voted ‘yes’, I was never really on board as regards the SRA because of living abroad, of living in the village and because the stated SRA infrastructure improvements were of minimal value to me. Now I suddenly learn and am informed of the existence of the CRA, it’s serving of papers, the fact that CRA ‘members’ are not paying the SRA levy, that the SRA levy is hidden and not outlined or mentioned in my municipal rates statements and of the shenanigans used in coming up with the ‘majority’. All very dodgy/shady to me now and yes I am certainly seriously concerned and would like to know how I may rescind my yes vote, join the CRA or at least refuse to pay my portion of the SRA, whatever that amount may be!”

The Chairman of SFPO replied to our request for clarification with the following.

“We at the SFPO are disappointed that you would accept on face value what this group, the CRA, are claiming. We have spent 3 years of our own personal time and money to establish a way in which we can save St Francis and reverse the downward trend of the real value of our property investments in St Francis Bay.”

 “The CRA members, whoever they are as there is no membership list available publicly, and whether they actually are bona fide property owners within the Canals and Village, have taken a stand against the SRA to have it set aside. They are litigating against the Municipality.”

“The Municipality is blessed with a very old Financial system that has had some problems with introducing the SRA levy. The problems include the fact that they were unable to list the SRA levy as a separate line item on our July Municipal invoice. This was corrected in August. They also did not include the SRA levy in the amount collected on direct debits in July and August. This was corrected in September.”

“The shenanigans you claim (on hearsay) that we used to come up with a majority vote is outrageous. Every single Yes vote was verified in terms of the erf number (verified against the Property Deeds Register) and validity of the voter, be it whether the owner of the property was an individual, a company or a trust. This was independently verified by a firm of attorneys in Port Elizabeth, McWilliams & Elliot. The claims of this group are preposterous, and the court will decide. We do live in a democracy where the majority vote actually determines what a society/community is willing to do. In our case we are doing what we consider necessary to save our property investments and this town from further decline.”

Interestingly St Francis Today also received a press release from the Concerned Residents Association (CRA) which is a little confusing for it states “the CRA is not opposed to a Special Rating Area for St Francis Bay and in fact “welcomes it as this is clearly the route to follow in order to uplift out beautiful village”.

If the CRA is not opposed and feel it is clearly the route to follow, why the litigation which is no doubt going to cost either the CRA or the Kouga Municipality a whack of money that could be better spent on the village? Surely if the CRA agrees it is the way to go there should be no need for litigation?

Or is there some sinister reason for their discord that they are not making public. We would welcome more comment or at least clarification on the reasons for the litigation if they concur that the SRA is the way forward. The public surely deserve clarity and we ask the CRA spokesperson to submit comment or further press releases to keep residents informed of their reasons for litigation which is confusing at best.

The press that the CRA asked St Francis Today to publish follows below.

Concerned Residents Association Protestations on Special Rating Area for St Francis Bay

The Concerned Residents Association (CRA) is not opposed to a Special Rating Area for St Francis Bay and in fact welcomes it as this is clearly the route to follow in order to uplift out beautiful village.

Regrettably, the CRA was then formed to allay the fears of concerned residents where no objections were entertained.

This has led to a High Court application. This document will be available shortly for perusal by arrangement with the secretary.

For further information, or to become a member, please contact:

Dee Love,
Secretary
Concerned Residents Association
Email: deelove46@gmail.com
Phone: 072 842 3796

 

Time to talk to each other, not the lawyers

Back in 1992 the National Party under then President FW de Klerk held a ‘white’s only’ referendum that would lead to an end to apartheid and eventually, South Africa’s first all-inclusive one man one vote general election.

2,804,947 of the 3,296,800 registered ‘white’ voters voted in that referendum with 1,924,186 (68.73%) voting YES – 875,619 (31.27%) voting NO with 5142 (0.18%) spoilt votes.

A majority vote!

494,853 registered voters, for whatever reason, never voted so non-voters are really meaningless stats as their choice will never  be known. Because of the majority  YES vote de Klerk went ahead and started consultation with the ANC.  The rest is history.

The right wing accused the government of electoral fraud arguing that white South Africans had the right to rule themselves with Andries Treurnicht and his supporters proposing an independent homeland or volkstaat. But the majority had spoken and although some ‘Packed for Perth’ or other shores to escape the ‘Swart Gevaar’, the inevitable was accepted and a new South Africa was born.

Earlier this year a referendum of sorts under the banner of “Saving St Francis” was held. The purpose, to raise funds to reverse the declining infrastructure of the town by putting its future in the hands of the property owners rather than relying on a municipality already overburdened with having to deliver services to an ever growing poor and disadvantaged population.

The ‘referendum’ required that at least half (50%) of the property owners of St Francis PLUS ONE, would be required one way or other voted to decide for or against declaring a Special Rates Area (SRA). Approximately 840 YES votes (more than the required 50% + 1 voted for the SRA with some 100 property owners voting against. Again the non-votes are meaningless and cannot be claimed by the yays or the nays.

A majority vote?

Being a democratic country the result was surely straight forward, the majority of home owners were in favour of “Saving St Francis”. On purely financial terms, those who voted against the SRA represent just 7% of the rates payable to Kouga Municipality with the YES voters contributing some 60%! Again a democratic split in favour of the yays.

Last week the recently formed St Francis Bay Concerned Residents Association’s (CRA) legal team served papers on the Kouga Municipality naming St Francis Property Owners Association as second respondent and the Non Profit Company, third respondents.

What the outcome of any court action will be is anyone’s guess for we all know that the smallest technicality can swing the judge’s final decision in either party’s favour. What is not in question is that it is going to cost either or both the Municipality and or the CRA a lot of money. No doubt the Kouga Municipality has budget allocation for legal fees but what of the CRA? Word has it that their legal team is working for free (hearsay) but what if they have to pay the costs out of their own pockets if the judgement goes against them.

Andries Treurnicht at least came up with a possible solution (in his mind) to the 1992 referendum in suggesting a ‘volkstaat’, sadly the CRA has not come up with a single suggestion. Even so surely they can sit around a table with the SRA committee as suggested by Hilton Thorpe in a recent letter to St Francis Today and discuss a way forward that doesn’t see the legal fraternity benefit while St Francis grows poorer in infrastructure and decency.

Something has to be done to improve infrastructure and it needs to be done by the townsfolk, not the municipality who have been directed by Government to spend 80% of their funds with disadvantaged communities. It is extremely doubtful that if a similar vote were to be held in the future that the figures would be any different for it is apparent the majority want to see St Francis proper.

NOTE:
THE purpose of a Special Rates Area (SRA), which is based on international best practice, is to enhance and supplement municipal services and aims to achieve this through a co-operative approach in order to halt the degeneration of the area and facilitate upliftment, so promoting economic growth and sustainable development.

Former chairman calls for SRA dialogue

Following a meeting of ‘St Francis Bay Concerned Residents’ held on Thursday addressed by an attorney from Graaff Reinet, and an advocate from Port Elizabeth regarding the SRA, St Francis Today has received the following letter from a former chairman of St Francis Bay Residents Association and Kromme River Trust. SFT has long been suggesting dialogue between those for and those against  to find common ground but rather than positive input there has really only been criticism of SFPO efforts to improve security. the roads, beach and spit rather than any constructive input. Maybe this letter from Hilton Thorpe, below, will encourage this much needed dialogue to not only find common ground that has been so elusive but also correct the facts of the SRA and dispel rumours of excessive spending by SFPO on office space and staff salaries which simply is not true but seems to have incensed some.

The only winners if this matter goes to court will be the legal fraternity for no matter the final outcome, it is this St Francis Bay community who will have to pay the legal bill one way or the other.

“Dear Collo,

Yesterday Julia & I attended a meeting of the above Association, which has been set up specifically to oppose the SRA plans of the St Francis Bay Property Owners Association. It was a well-attended, and well-organised meeting, addressed by an attorney from Graff Reinet, and an advocate from Port Elizabeth. The retired population of St Francis Bay was well-represented there, with the affordability of a 25% increase in rates on top of normal annual increases high on the list of concerns.

It quickly became apparent that the St Francis Bay community is caught between a rock & a hard  place. The Chairman of the Concerned Residents made it clear from the outset that they are not opposed in principle to a Special Rate to address the major problems confronting St Francis Bay, but they could not agree to the cost being met by one section of the community.  This being the case, they were preparing to take the matter to the High Court, and had already prepared preliminary documentation. There is no doubt that the objectors’ concerns are real, and we share them.

The lawyers came up with a list of legal technicalities which, in their view, amounted to failure to observe due process, and could be challenged in court. However, litigation is extremely expensive, slow and would achieve nothing towards solving the current impasse. This should be a last resort. It would surely be far preferable if the opposing parties were to sit down, debate the issues raised, and try to find some consensus on a way forward.        

The problem is really caused by the inability of the authorities to solve the problems here, and the legislation with regard to Special Rating, neither of which is the fault of the SFBPOA. They have spent two years, and expended large amounts of time and cash seeking a solution, and have been driven to their present position by the lack of government capacity and by very demanding legislation.

No special rate can be imposed by the Municipality without the approval of 50% + 1 of ratepayers. In the case of Santareme and St Francis-on-Sea, there is a large number of undeveloped stands, and, despite huge efforts by the SBPOA, it has not been possible to identify or communicate with many owners. Incorporation of these suburbs would mean that the 50% +1 target is unattainable, and no action of any sort can be taken. It was not clear that sufficient thought had been given to this by the objectors. Their demand for full participation by the whole community will simply lead to stalemate.

In our view, we should be very grateful to the committed group of able people who have bent over backwards to accommodate all the conflicting currents in this complex situation. It was very sad to us to see such a deep division between two groups, both of whom have the interests of the village at heart, but who seem to have little common ground on how to go about securing this.

A solution to all this is critical to the future of St Francis Bay. Failure to move forward would be a tragedy for the village. Let us hope that common sense will prevail, and that a spirit of co-operation and compromise on the part of both sides will replace the litigious mind-set displayed at yesterday’s meeting”.

Hilton Thorpe
Former Chairman of the St Francis Bay Residents Association and of the St Francis Kromme Trust

Help Is At Hand as SRA Levy Kicks In

St Francis Property Owners put forward a propesal to those needing assistance with then SRA levy

Few will not have noticed how a trip to your favourite supermarket has you either leaving with a lighter packet of groceries or a lighter wallet. A visit to the petrol station has you shuddering with fear that the balance on your bank card won’t cover the cost of filling your tank and even if it does, you are going to give up something to balance the budget. Everyone, well most of us, are feeling the pinch of rising costs fuelled even more with the highest fuel costs in history, and expected to rise more.

July also heralds the start of a new financial year for Kouga Municipality with a budget in better shape than that they inherited two years ago. Many will have read the basic budget expenditure outlined in The Kouga Budget – How the money will be spent  published three weeks back. Reading through that budget there is little doubt that the council will be committing significant funds to bettering lives in the informal settlements particularly in terms of sewerage (bucket system), electrification (illegal connections) and to improve water security as our drought worsens almost daily.

The new budget also means an increase in municipal rates and services and although these increases are in line with inflation they do require budget adjustments for most.  But there is a new charge that will be added to Property Owners in a demarcated area of St Francis Bay, the SRA levy.

There are those who were (are) vehemently opposed to this levy but the majority of residents have shown their support in the realisation that the only the help St Francis is going to get in improving the town is if it helps itself. Certainly it will mean a slight adjustment to most budgets more so for some,

But there are those who are simply too financially stressed to even make the smallest adjustments. Pensioners on a fixed or limited pension, some on Social Service grants simply cannot afford this added cost to their already overstretched funds.

There are municipalities, Johannesburg and Cape Town amongst others, that offer reduced rates to pensioners on prescribed formulas and whilst SFPO did approach Kouga council to see if such could be considered, it seems the municipality simply does not have systems in place to administer such a process. Understandably it would require software changes to their billing system and huge changes in administration as it would have to be applied to the entire municipality not just St Francis Bay.

But help is at hand

From the outset, SFPO cognisant of realities the proposed SRA levy would have on some of the property owners already surviving on fixed or declining incomes did propose how those who could not afford the levy could be assisted when the SRA received approval. Formulas were published in early documentation but until the levy was adopted by council, little could be done to address the situation. In the past weeks the SFPO committee has been in consultation with others to find a way forward for those who genuinely cannot afford the proposed levy.

Rather than St Francis Today going into detail of how this assistance will work we rather refer you to the documentation on the St Francis Property Owners website which sets out exactly how those in need of relief can go about applying for assistance. It is important to note that whatever assistance property owners may get, it does not absolve them from paying the levy. Non-payment could result in electricity or other services being suspended.

Hopefully those who are so vehement in their opposition and who may be considering litigation to halt the SRA will see sense in what SFPO is proposing and rather than filling the pockets of the legal fraternity that will be of no benefit to St Francis no matter who should win such a battle, would rather contribute to the proposed fund that SFPO is suggesting as a way forward. St Francis is an amazingly generous community as any local charity will attest to and will no doubt be only too supportive of those who genuinely cannot afford the levy..

We refer you to St Francis Property Owners website for details of the proposal

READ ALSO – The SRA concept is neither new nor unique to St Francis Read  Precinct management: the solution to urban decay

SRA War of Words

SFPO responds to misleading post on Facebook

Last Friday the war of words on the SRA proposed by St Francis Property Owners (SFPO) took a turn for the worse when longtime detractor Rod Suter decided to publish a letter under the guise of an anonymous contributor apparently also opposed to the SRA. One wonders why someone so opposed would choose to remain anonymous or maybe things not quite what they seem.

The anonymous letter makes so many incorrect statements and assumptions it would probably be better classified as ‘Fake News’ but sadly some serious aspersions on the integrity of the SFPO committee gave cause for  Wayne Furphy to reply to Suter and anonymous and clarify some of the points raised as well as to challenge serious accusations contained in the letter

 Furphy’s response to the Facebook letter follows.

“In reply to the anonymous letter, let us (the SFPO) begin by saying that we do not know to whom Anonymous has spoken or whether this is a misrepresentation in itself, but in our interaction with the current senior management and leadership in the Municipality, we have only received support. SRAs exist as part of the Municipal legislation to allow local communities to invest in their communities.

The reality is that the Government (National, Provincial and Local) and local property developers have not fulfilled their responsibilities  over many years resulting in:

  • The loss of our beach and s The Municipality has not maintained our beach, spit, river, roads and stormwater drains for over a decade. Instead, they allowed some of our residents to convince them to pay for the beach pipe solution which was an abject failure, wasting our taxes and losing our beach and spit. Eight years have been wasted and by now a proper system could have been put in place and the beach re-established. This is an environmental and economic disaster for our town. Fortunately, we now have a Municipality that is willing to work with us to try to fix these problems, and that is why we have made progress.
  • St Francis Bay property values have stagnated over the past 10 years compared to the trebling of property values in Cape Town and doubling of property values in Plettenberg Bay. Given inflation over the past 10 years, we as property owners in St Francis, have lost approximately half of our capital invested in our properties. This is a financial disaster for most of us. The SRA is our only hope of recovering from this dire situation.
  • We have not disseminated false information about the inaccuracy of contact information. It is a fact because we tried to call and email all property owners using Municipal contact information. The results were poor and we had to build our own database of contact information. We were told in December that there was an unacceptable level of payment arrears to Municipality. To say that this was only “wealthy property owners” is disingenuous. How does this so-called Municipal official know who is wealthy or not?
  • The SRA does not represent a tiny portion of St Francis Bay. It represents over 1,600 properties in the Canals and Village area. Santareme to Otters Landing has some 1,250 properties. The Canals and the Village will contribute approximately half of the funds required for the SRA projects. The balance will come from the River estates, the Riparians Association (Canal homeowners again), the Port, the Municipality and very generous donations from some 80 property owners who took the trouble to understand what and why we were proposing an SRA, starting some two and a half years ago.
  • The accusation that most of the money will be spent on the Canals is wrong. Please read what we have communicated. The full proposal is available for scrutiny on our website. More than half the money required will be spent on restoring our beach, all 2.7kms of it, which will benefit the whole town.
  • Where has Anonymous been over the past 2 and a half years? The facts presented are wrong, malicious and misleading.

Finally, Mr Suter, you have also published an open letter that the SFPO Committee members and Board Directors are “dishonest”. This a serious accusation you have made against the following people who are SFPO Association committee members, SFPO NPC Board members or SFPO NPC Technical Committee members : Wayne Furphy, Chris Gray, Simon Picton-Turbevill, Norman Dyer, Louis van der Merwe, Nigel Aitken, Lyn Aitken, David Truter, Dave Harpur, Paul Pezarro, Greg Miller, Gert Vorster, Peter Mountford, Deon Pienaar and Craig Northwood. Your suggestion that this group is dishonest is defamatory. All legal rights are specifically reserved in relation to this inaccurate and defamatory attack.”

 

The anonymous letter can be read at https://web.facebook.com/Question-SRA-St-Francis-676232779246946

A little negative about SRA – take heart!

There are no doubt some are not totally enamoured with the SRA 2018 proposal seemingly having achieved the 50+1 votes required. We live in a democracy and so the outcome must be seen as the will of the majority within the demarcated area of St Francis Bay.

There are those who voted NO as their limited fixed income will be sorely stretched and their rejection of the proposal is understandable. But there are also those who voted NO simply because they do not believe the SFPO efforts will work and that the beach is a lost cause. Possibly that is true but should we all just sit and watch as the ocean slowly consumes more and more of St Francis Bay.

There comes a time when man has to intervene in what man has caused. We experienced it during the Zuma reign. The majority at the time voted Zuma into power and the country sat and watched whilst he eroded the economy and the country. Finally in late 2016 and throughout 2017 into 2018 man started to intervene and the efforts of the many concerned organisations finally paid off and stopped that erosion. Had all those organisations so intent on saving South Africa done nothing, would we be rid of Zuma?

Man has caused the eroding beach, silting river and so man, with the guidance of DEDEAT and those with experience in similar conditions, maybe, just maybe, man can turn back the tide.

Certainly SFPO have a huge responsibility to all in St Francis Bay to get on with what they have set out as achievable under the proposed SRA 2018. It is essential that they now take SFB into their confidence and keep all concerned with progress once the SRA is finally rolled out should it be approved by the Kouga Municipality.  And just as important is that all of SFB get behind them and support their efforts.

For those who feel SFPO’s efforts to save the beach will be in vain, maybe the linked story and video below will give you just a little hope and accept that doing nothing will achieve nothing but planting that “first tree” may be what is needed to reclaim the beach and save a flagging St Francis Bay. Let’s just hope it doesn’t take 39 years but even if it does we will have left our grandchildren and their children a little piece of paradise.

The following is a true story and a tale of consistency – READ MORE