eThekwini Municipality. File photo.
Durban - ALTHOUGH many ratepayers associations have disbanded, the question is whether existing associations have any power or are now merely toothless bodies.

PR councillor in Hillcrest, Gillian Noyce, said the role of ratepayers associations was to defend ratepayers in the way the council used their money. She said the associations would take up issues and write to the council.

“The Hillcrest Ratepayers Association was very active and it paid a great deal of attention to town planning issues and wanted the community to be aware of it, but when it fell away it left a big hole in the community,” Noyce said.

She said it was a great loss to people, but although associations fell away, neighbourhood watches became stronger, even though they were concerned only about security.

“Eventually the council didn’t pay attention to what ratepayer associations said. The associations sent letters, but it didn’t seem to carry any weight. So the associations felt it was pointless and no one was listening to them, so why waste time discussing issues.”

The councillor for Ward 10, Terence "Tex" Collins, said the Central Outer West Ratepayers and Residents Association filled the gap of the Hillcrest Ratepayers Association, but it was not widely subscribed to and most people did not know about it.

“Besides a good leader, what makes a successful ratepayers association is a really strong membership body. A body that does walk the walk and talk the talk,” Collins said.

He also felt the association should be apolitical and that marketing also played a role.

The councillor for Ward 65, Samantha Windvogel, said many ratepayers associations still existed in Chatsworth, but were now referred to as civic associations.

“In my ward there are two civic associations - Savannah and Kharwastan. These associations oversee what pertains to their area, such as service delivery. Both are very active and also patrol at night.”

The councillor for Ward 35, Heinz de Boer, said ratepayers associations had totally fallen away.

The uMhlanga La Lucia triangular ratepayers association fell away at least five years ago.

“People expected the associations to do everything for them, so eventually there were not enough people keeping them together,” he said.

However, he said there were groups, such as security groups, which were fairly active.

The spokesperson for the eThekwini Municipality, Msawakhe Mayisela, said the role played by ratepayers associations depended on how active the organisation was.

“All customers and organisations have credibility in the municipality, and ratepayers associations are treated equally to individuals complaining to the municipality,” he said.

Daily News