Mayor to respond in 14 days to marchers’ grievances
By Bev Mortimer: Jeffreys Bay : 12 September
“We will respond to your list of grievances in 14 days,” Kouga Mayor, Booi Koerat, told an angry crowd of marchers outside the gates to the Kouga Municipal offices in Da Gama Road this morning.
The crowd of about 350 marchers, dissatisfied with service delivery by Kouga municipality, had just marched from Jeffreys Bay beachfront.
Waving placards, some of which read: “Sea Vista is not a secret suburb!”, “Sea Vista ignored. Shame on you! “Batho Pele, people not pockets!” the marchers retorted in deafening loud unison that they wanted answers now and not in a fortnight’s time!
The mayor was accompanied by municipal manager, Sidney Fadi, and after telling the crowd the municipality would address their problems, the pair left. They were later interviewed by journalists inside the municipal grounds – journalists from several publications including the St Francis Bay news agency, St Francis Chronicle, daily PE newspapers, plus national television crew and television and radio stations.
During the interviews Koerat said some of Kouga residents would be unhappy, but others would understand when they understood the difficulties faced by the municipality.
Fadi told St Francis Chronicle that St Francis Bay and Jeffreys Bay constituted 60% of Kouga’s total rate collection and St Francis Bay residents expect all their rates’ money would be spent in their area only. Meanwhile there were poorer areas in Kouga that could not contribute much in the way of rates and they also had bad roads and services.
Aitken however said this was not true. “We have never asked for all the money to be spent in our area. Even if 30% of money collected in our area was made available for addressing issues in St Francis Bay and Sea Vista, it would go a long way to resolve the infrastructure problems. The problem is that only a small portion is spent in St Francis Bay.”
Koerat remarked: “If everyone in Kouga paid their rates, we would be able to pay all our debts and be able to have improved service delivery.” He added that the current Kouga councillors had inherited bad debts from the previous administration and were striving to address them.
Asked when he was going to meet Kouga communities in an attempt to address problems, he said that his Outreach programme had unfortunately had to be postponed and he would be visiting communities later this year, probably in November as October was the Bisho legislature’s outreach.
From 9 am people started gathering near the bottom of Oosterland Street and at 10 am when the march was due to start there were only about 250 people there , as reported earlier. However, more people arrived and a lot of onlookers joined the back of the crowd outside the municipal gates.
Marchers then marched a block along the beachfront and up to Da Gama Road, then about three blocks to the municipal offices. They sang and toyi-toyed while they were marching. The mood was jovial.
The gate to the municipality was locked and marchers started chanting outside for Mayor Koerat to come out and address them. A lady from the municipal offices came out and told the crowd that the Mayor was coming and the people must wait. After 20 minutes and no sign of the Mayor some crowd members became agitated and restless. One guy was shouting to stir people up in anger while some others started to rattle the municipal fences vociferously. They had to be told by Nigel Aitken of the St Francis Bay Residents’ Association to desist. Aitken told the crowd that they were not going anywhere and asked marchers not to leave. He said marchers were there to stop corruption and “demand our rights!”
Speaking through a loud hailer, Aitken also told the municipality that the people were not moving unless Koerat came to address them.
Asked to comment on the march, several people remarked that it was disappointing that out of the entire Kouga region so few had turned up to voice their grievances. Aitken, however, told this paper that he was pleased about the numbers especially considering the march took place during working hours.
He told the crowd: “We will be back in 14 days!”
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