Rates boycott call concern
Municipal Manager Moppo Mene says he’s committed to transparency and and has appealed to residents to engage with him rather than support a rates boycott. Meanwhile, Makana Revive! says it was not driving a call on social media this week for citizens to divert a portion of their rates to the Grahamstown (Makhanda) NPO.
Facebook and Whatsapp group debates began with residents’ frustration at the state of infrastructure and governance in Makana Municipality and moved to ethics; risk and cost of litigation against the withholder; the problem of paying money to an NGO that isn’t obliged to account directly to the public; and the suggestion that legal tools should be used to make the municipality accountable.
“Calling all Makana ratepayers! Please join us in withholding rates. Why pay rates to a dysfunctional Municipality that is clearly allowing our town to go to wreck and ruin?” wrote a resident on the Grahamstown Facebook page. “It’s time that we stand together and say NO! It’s time for action! From now on we will divert a portion of our rates payment to Makana Revive! and we challenge fellow rate payers to do the same.”
However, Makana Revive! Member Ron Weissenberg says the call does not come from the organisation.
“Makana Revive! has never called for a rates boycott and has no view on what people do with their own money,” Weissenberg said. “Makana Revive was mentioned several times as a likely recipient given the track record on repairs and maintenance in and around Makana. This created the impression that Makana Revive had called for this. Not correct.”
Public Service watchdog PSAM said the Constitutional Court (CC) had commented and ruled on the withholding of rates in various judgments.
Jay Kruuse, Director of the Public Service Accountability Monitor, cited the case of Pretoria City Council v Walker  ZACC 1; 1998 (2) SA 363 (CC); 1998 (3) BCLR 257 (CC) in which the City Council characterised such conduct as impermissible self-help.
In that case, the Constitutional Court had said, ““Local government is as important a tier of public administration as any. It has to continue functioning for the common good; it, however, cannot do so efficiently and effectively if every person who has a grievance about the conduct of a public official or a governmental structure were to take the law into his or her own hands or resort to self-help by withholding payment for services rendered. That conduct carries with it the potential for chaos and anarchy and can therefore not be appropriate. The kind of society envisaged in the Constitution implies also the exercise of responsibility towards the systems and structures of society. A culture of self-help in which people refuse to pay for services they have received is not acceptable. It is pre-eminently for the courts to grant appropriate relief against any public official, institution or government when there are grievances.”
Mene, who started at Makana Municipality on 1 August, said several organisations had already engaged with him constructively.
“Let those who are unhappy with the way we do things come forward and engage my office,” Mene said. “I commit to serve you with the best of my ability in a manner that will pull all of us together for the betterment of our city.”
Let those who are unhappy with the way we do things come forward and engage my office.