Political parties’ actions threaten integrity of residents’ associations

The major political parties in South Africa are on a path that threatens the autonomy and integrity of residents and ratepayers’ associations.

This was said in a statement by the new chairman of the Jeffreys Bay AGM (JBRA), Paul Hjul, in reaction to an address by DA MP Elza van Lingen at the organisation’s AGM this week.

Hjul, who has received complaints about the address, says the MP’s speech undermined the principal business aspects of the AGM and caused “harm to the association’s credibility as an independent community based organisation”. Though Hjul did not elaborate in his statement about the contents of van Lingen’s speech, parts of her address were published on the online blog, JBayNews (jbaynews.com), run by Kouga DA Clr, Brenton Williams, in which she maintained the rot had set in Kouga and the only way forward was administration (by Province) and for Kouga to once again become a DA-led municipality.

In his statement that has been sent out by email and is posted on the organisation’s website, (www.jbayra.com) Hjul says: “The JBRA is not a political party, nor is it aligned to any political party. The decision to invite van Lingen was not intended to suggest any alignment with the politics of van Lingen.”

Saying he was making comment with ‘trepidation’, Hjul said he will be writing to van Lingen to establish if there has been a misunderstanding between the JBRA and herself, plus to apprise her of complaints he has received. He will also be writing to the major political parties to express concerns.  In his statement he also says:

“The AGM for 2012 was held at Newton Hall on Wednesday 22nd February with van Lingen as the special guest. The invitation was afforded to a senior office bearer in the Parliament of the Republic and our provincial legislature. In previous years invitations have been extended to the Mayor of the Kouga Municipality, a member of a different political party.

“As the chairperson of the association I believe it to be inappropriate for me, or the organisation to comment on what van Lingen should or should not have done with the platform afforded to her at the AGM of the JBRA. I only ask the public understand that at functions of this nature the person afforded the privilege of delivering the address is customarily afforded a great deal of latitude.

“They may express opinions which are not those of the organisation. As an organisation (the JBRA) in an open and democratic society – which prizes freedom – the idea of controlling an invited guest is not only inhospitable but also repugnant to our ethos.

“In light of this, after fully apprising myself of the situation and in consultation with other residents and ratepayers’ associations, I will write to the leadership of the major political parties to express the concerns. I trust that these steps are sufficient to put the potentially divisive matter to rest.

“As a community based organisation it is our purpose and duty to promote and develop the community of Jeffrey’s Bay. It is our job to make Jeffrey’s Bay a nice town, in a nice region. A nice town is an inclusive town.

“We have made a major stride towards enhancing our inclusivity by amending the organisation’s constitution to entrench the practice of having a pool of free (non-voting) membership. We will not limit ourselves to the interests of a section of the community or to the supporters of a particular political organisation – or religious denomination for that matter.

“We will continue our efforts to develop a sense of community within Jeffrey’s Bay and hope to see the emergence and growth of neighbouring residents associations. I hope that we can succeed and request the assistance from the community to enable 2012 to be a prosperous year for the residents of Jeffrey’s Bay.”

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