MOSSEL BAY NEWS & VIDEO - Dana Bay residents enthusiastically supported a proposal by Les Bridgland that the municipality be coerced to take their demands very seriously. His proposal followed an impasse at the emotionally-charged community meeting attended by an unprecedented 300 plus residents to discuss concerns about their safety on Thursday, 26 July.
Residents demanded to know why an alternative access road for the suburb was not yet built despite it having being listed on the Integrated Development Plan (IDP) for at least the past seven years.
The community's demands primarily concerned the safety of their neighbourhood; an alternative access road; safety improvements at the current exit; effective communication on contingency plans intended to safeguard the community from any future natural disasters or political upheaval; feedback on contingency plans for the short term to ensure that residents are not trapped again should problems arise; and methods of effective communication with all of the residents in case of an emergency.
Bridgland insisted that residents should not resort to any illegal rates boycott or other illegal action. He suggested, however, that ways should be investigated to use the community's rates and taxes to compel the municipality to deliver the alternative access road and other safety guarantees that the community insists on. His suggestions were met with enthusiastic applause.
For approximately two and a half hours countless residents questioned why planning for the additional access road is continuously being moved to the outer years on the IDP. The municipality never specifically responded to this question. Several suggestions were made on different routes for an alternative access road. Residents were so impassioned that they threatened to keep the municipal delegation hostage until they receive a commitment on delivery specifics.
"For years we were told that the alternative access road is 'in the planning'. We no longer merely want to hear that. For years we were told there is no money available for such a road. Now we demand an additional access road. We insist on a specific timeline for the completion of the alternative access road," Marius van Wyk said.
Although the director of planning and integrated services, Carel Venter and municipal manager Advocate Thys Giliomee highlighted the budgetary limitations and pointed out the time implications of environmental planning and the need to obtain privately owned land, residents were emphatic that they had finally run out of patience.
"Three times in the past 18 months or so the safety of Dana Bay residents was threatened as our only access road was blocked. Residents were trapped. Businesses suffered, children were kept out of school for their own safety. We were inconvenienced. Old people were denied medical care as they could not keep doctor's appointments."
Another resident asked: "What has the municipality done in the 18 months since fire threatened homes and lives in December 2016 to ensure the future safety of Dana Bay residents?"
Angry comments were made about the ruling party.
Residents questioned whether an emergency contingency plan for their suburb even existed.
As there is a steady increase in crime in the area, residents insisted on an improved police station. "We urgently need a decent police station with proper facilities. It should be sufficiently equipped to deal with the population it serves and the vastness of the area it has to cover," a resident insisted.
Safety concerns about conditions at the current access road were raised and specific low-cost suggestions were made to upgrade the lower end of Flora Road. It transpired that the current access road will eventually be redirected to join the Crotz Street intersection - the hot spot of the recent violent service delivery unrest.
Advocate Giliomee indicated that he could at best allocate funding for the additional access road in next year's budget. The draft budget will only be available in March 2019. This statement was entirely unacceptable to the largest number of residents to ever attend a meeting in Dana Bay.
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Towards the end the meeting degenerated as residents became disillusioned and frustrated at the unstructured format of the meeting and the perceived lack of commitment from the municipality to address their concerns. At times tempers flared. A number of residents left before the meeting was concluded.
The municipality was finally given an ultimatum to revert to the community within three weeks at a follow-up meeting to provide succinct answers and a definitive plan of action.
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