Coun­cil­lor gun­ned for re­lief

Knysna-Plett Herald - - Voorblad - S­te­fan Goo­sen s­te­fan@grou­pe­di­tors.co.za

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

P­ho­to: S­te­fan Goo­sen

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.

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