New civic organisation in Helderberg Basin

NORMAN MCFARLANE

The Helderberg Residents’ Association (HRA), a new civic organisation which seeks to establish a conduit between residents and the City of Cape Town, came into being on March 1.

The organisation held its inaugural AGM at Smudge Restaurant and Coffee Shop in Somerset West, attended by 32 founding members.

The organisation adopted and signed its founding constitution, and elected the following office bearers: Stephen Leppan, chairperson; Bill Smith, vice-chairperson; Peter Brand, treasurer; David Bullard, public relations officer; Marianne Groenewald, secretary; Geoff Morgan and Michelle Theron.

The HRA held its first public meeting at the Somerset West library hall, at 7pm, on Monday April 11.

Speaking after the meeting, Mr Leppan explained the purpose behind the formation of the HRA.

“We formed the organisation to provide a constructive means of communication between residents and councillors, basically.

“We don’t want to get political and we don’t want to cause personality conflicts at all,” he said, adding: “We simply want to create a positive forum for engagement.”

According to Mr Leppan, the HRA has about 90 members.

“We are busy registering the HRA as a non-profit company (NPC), and once that is completed, we will open a bank account. Until the NPC is formed, membership is free. Thereafter it will cost R60 for residents and R100 for businesses, a year.”

Asked how the HRA relates to the Helderberg Residents’ Action Association (HRAA), a civic organisation of some 20 years standing with precisely the same objective as the HRA, Mr Leppan said: “We did invite them to join us. I don’t know whether it’s true or not, but apparently they’re no longer functioning, and I believe that they’ve got about four members left.”

Peter Ford, former chairperson of the HRAA, confirmed that the organisation, while still in existence, is largely inactive.

“We’d gladly pass on the baton to an organisation that will create an effective means of communication between the public and the city generally, and the local sub-council in particular,” said Mr Ford.

“In the past, the HRAA has been particularly active in this regard, but of late we’ve had difficulty enrolling new members for various reasons, and it is also a problem finding new committee members. We wish them well with this new initiative,” he added.

Stuart Pringle, chairperson of Sub-council 8, who attended the inaugural AGM, said: “I welcome the establishment of another independent civil society organisation, as these are an important interface between government at all levels and the general public, and I therefore wish the members and leadership well in their endeavours.

“I was privileged to attend the launch of the HRA and offered to assist them in their dealings with local government in particular, where legislation and processes can be very confusing and sometimes require detailed explanations.”

Mr Pringle added: “I ensured that the leadership of the HRA have been invited to attend the public consultation meeting around the budget on Wednesday April 13, as well as the high level meeting between the deputy mayor, Ian Neilsen and the leadership of civil society organisations in the Helderberg, to be held on Wednesday April 20. I look forward to positive engagement now and in the future with the HRA.”

At last week’s HRA meeting, Somerset West property consultant Hein Bredenkamp explained the process which the City of Cape Town follows in valuing properties, the results of which were recently released in the General Valuation Role.

He said the rates bills of property owners will be determined by their property values and the “rate in the Rand” which the city applies.

He encouraged residents who feel that their property valuations are excessive to object, following the procedure on the City’s website. He noted that the first step in the process, is to have the property professionally valued, and in this context offered his services free of charge to HRA members.

Mr Leppan, presented a proposal by the Aleit Group, a local events management company, to manage the annual Somerset West Festival of Lights which takes place over the Christmas period.

The plan spans a three-year period, and is intended to improve the quality and spread of traders who are granted permission to sell goods during the festival, and to benefit by involvement, local businesses and other civic organisations.

According to Mr Leppan, the Aleit Group is offering its services free of charge and proceeds from the event will go to a designated charitable organisation. The meeting mandated the HRA executive to proceed with the project.

HRA committee member Geoff Morgan proposed a civic initiative driven by local schools and civic organisations to take samples of water at designated points along the rivers which flow into False Bay in the vicinity of the Helderberg.

He expressed concern about the apparent conflicts that exist between water quality at various points along rivers, and water quality at beaches in Strand and Gordon’s Bay.

He said if water quality in the rivers is as bad as it said to be, it doesn’t add up that we have blue flag beaches, in the area. The meeting adopted the proposal.

Mr Morgan also spoke about an off-grid sewage processing system, manufactured by South African company SMARTSAN.

The system uses a combination of anaerobic and aerobic biological and nano-filtration processes to process household sewage and completely filled out E. coli. The purified water output by the system can be fed back to be used for toilet flushing.

The system, capable of processing sewage for up to 10 people, cost between R24 000 and R28 000 to install, and required minimal maintenance.

Mr Morgan noted that he had installed the system at a school which he is currently building, noting that since the property will not be connected to the municipal sewage system, the City should allow a rebate for sewage processing. The City’s sewage tariff is calculated as a proportion of household water consumption, capped at 70%.

Mr Morgan noted that his engagement with the City in this regard, had been unsuccessful thus far.

In response to an inquiry by Bolander about the possibility of a sewage tariff rebate, utility services mayoral committee member Ernest Sonnenberg said:

“Where service infrastructure is available, but not used by the property owner (i.e. no sewer connection is in place), the owner will be charged an availability charge.

The current availability charge is R75.10 a month. Please note, this is only applicable where there has been no application for a sewer connection.

“Where a sewer connection is present, normal rates will apply. We also advise that customers investigate the regulations regarding the disposal of solids generated by the system.”

For more information about the Helderberg Residents’ Association, email helderbergresidents@gmail.com