Councillor gunned for relief
A feedback meeting in Ward 10, held at the Knysna Angling Club on Monday evening, July 3, had some tempers flaring as it seemed firstly that the meeting was poorly organised and secondly that answers to residents’ questions were not forthcoming or not good enough for those asking.
The venue was so packed that people were forced to either stand, sit on the floor, huddle in doorways or peep in through a window to catch what deputy mayor Peter Myers, also councillor of Ward 10, had to say.
Myers was immediately thrown into a situation where he was in a hot spot, trying to answer questions for which he says there are no finite answers at this time, and at other times trying to explain that the municipality did not have resources for a disaster of this magnitude.
Many in the audience repeatedly asked heated questions and demanded answers for questions, hardly giving Myers a chance to explain the problems being faced by council.
Syd Pope, an extremely concerned resident said that the meeting was a joke. “It is poorly convened and organised, you can’t even hear what is being said or asked. We want to know what the municipality is doing, what help we can expect, and how the financial aid is being spent. I have received no help thus far,” said Pope.
It was not anticipated that the turnout for this meeting would run into hundreds of people.
FRUSTRATIONS EXPRESSED AT MEETING
Pope’s frustrations were shared by many of the residents gathered in the small hall of the Knysna Angling Club. One common theme expressed by residents was about the clean-up and rebuilding process that seems to be standing still, according to some. Others expressed their concern that no accurate data regarding figures of damaged or destroyed properties was available.
There were also concerns as to how uninsured home-owners would be able to afford rebuilding. According to Myers owners of destroyed homes would possibly be offered a reprieve in paying rates and taxes for a year.
WHAT TEMPORARY HOUSING?
Almost the entire audience wanted to know what is happening with the temporary housing for those most affected by the fire disaster. “Tents could have been erected by now for those who have nowhere to go,” was the comment from some in the audience.
A simple tent would help Salt River resident Linda Gussenhoven to return to the property she lives on, she said. “Where are the residents of Salt River supposed to go with no homes and if the municipality does not want us to return?” she wanted to know.
According to Gussenhoven she approached director of planning and development, Marlene Boyce, after the meeting, who then told Gussenhoven to go ahead and erect her tent.
MUNICIPALITY HAS LIMITED RESOURCES
Myers’ answers to some questions were laughed at or received a resounding outcry of disbelief from the audience.
Myers said at one point, after a question as to why simple tents had not been provided for those left without shelter, that he did not know what to say. “Private accommodation is not the municipality’s responsibility. We have limited resources and cannot address the accommodation issue. This municipality does not have the resources to cater for a disaster of this scale,” he said.
According to Myers the municipality is currently busy reconciling their own data of damaged or destroyed homes and properties with that of SANParks, after which a much more accurate picture of what is still needed and where will be available and issues can be addressed.
MYERS LYNCHED WHILE TRYING TO ANSWER QUESTIONS
On Tuesday morning, July 4, Myers took to Facebook to express his dismay towards what he called a “small minority, many of who have been unfairly criticizing me for the two years I have been in office, and who “decided to turn themselves into a lynch mob”.
In his statement on the ‘Ward 10 Knysna Councillor Peter Myers’ Facebook page Myers said that he had arranged the meeting to report back to residents of Ward 10 on the many questions, which had been raised by them in recent weeks regarding the fire disaster.
“I expected a serious question and answer session from people who understood the extent of the disaster and were genuinely interested in the real and honest solutions that are being worked on by the municipality. Most people understood this and conducted themselves accordingly,” he said, adding that the small minority had decided to turn themselves into a lynch mob.
Myers deemed this action as “disgraceful”, adding that it did not allow those who needed to interact with him in a proper fashion to do so.
“I have been criticized and that’s fine, but to be treated in such a disrespectful and disgraceful manner, by the few who came looking for a fight, is unacceptable. I remain committed to finding realistic solutions to our very challenging problems and I’m always available to be contacted personally at the municipality, and I urge any of those with any remaining concerns to do so,” Myers said.
‘COUNCIL DOING ITS BEST TO ADDRESS ALL ISSUES’
Concluding his statement on Facebook Myers said he wished to thank the “vast majority of Ward 10 residents for the resolve that they are showing in these difficult times and I can assure them that the municipality is doing everything in its capability to address all the issues fairly, legally and in an affordable way.”
After the Knysna-Plett Herald (KPH) posted an initial ‘teaser’ of the meeting on its Facebook page, residents immediately started commenting.
Some remarking on the bad choice of venue, others stating that the Knynsa municipality in its entirety was to blame for their lack of action and that it simply does not have the ability to deal with the current situation, others wanted to know what is happening to the funding sent to Knysna, and a small minority seemed understanding of the state of affairs.
The KPH has sent many a query to the municipality, long before this feedback meeting, regarding its plan for relief, rebuilding and the use of financial aid sent to Knysna. At the time of going to print though, no feedback was received.
See videos of the meeting on www. knysnaplettherald.com
The Knysna Angling Club was packed to the brim on Monday night, July 3 during a Ward 10 public feedback meeting. Residents were forced to either stand inside, sit on the floor, huddle in doorways or peep in through a window to catch what was going on.