– Lia Snijman. Above: Stellenbosch se stadsaal. Foto: Stellenbosch Munisipaliteit.

On 29 July the 36th municipal council meeting, and the third virtual one, was held. The previous week the Mayoral committee meeting had taken place.

Although there were some technological issues, with mainly most of the ANC councillors struggling to join the meeting, the group sat down for a marathon session. Unfortunately, this article only covers the first four hours of the meeting.

The Mayor, Gesie van Deventer, started off the meeting by expressing sympathy to those who have lost friends and family to Covid-19 and asked councillors to set the example for residents by adhering to lockdown rules. She also encouraged people to support Stellenbosch Unite.

Van Deventer mentioned the business stakeholders’ virtual meeting that was held on 23 July. She said that it was great to see people again and that they received information during this session on how best to assist the businesses and restart Stellenbosch’s economy. She noted that this session was general and the first in a series that would become more focused on certain groups. She said they will look at everything from small to big companies and even informal trade too.

She wished everybody a happy women’s month. She said it is “heart breaking” to see gender-based violence in the media and she encouraged the men in the meeting to support their female colleagues and fellow residents. She spoke about the importance of women to people personally, but also mentioned that they are a strong economic force.

Van Deventer wished all Muslim residents well for Eid ul Adha and expressed pity that they cannot socialise during this special occasion.

The speaker of the municipal council, Nyaniso Jindela, said it is worrying that Stellenbosch is the area in the Cape Winelands with the third highest rate of Covid-19 cases. He said residents must support stopping the spread of Covid-19 but also support Stellenbosch’s return to normalcy. He mentioned how small businesses are especially struggling.

Jindela encouraged councillors to let their communities know about opportunity, such as the youth training opportunity to become a chef that is closing by mid-August.

He mentioned that Kayamandi residents keep on coming to the central municipal offices to request their proof of residence and asked the municipal manager to check that their offices in Kayamandi are open. He also requested councillors to not come into the offices unnecessarily.

The municipal manager, Geraldine Mettler, acknowledged the loss of staff members due to Covid-19. She called their staff their “greatest asset”. With reference to the protest that their workers took part in, she said that they had applied for an exemption application. Mettler said that the unions know of this and that the strike action had been illegal.

Councillor Derrick Hendrickse of the EFF responded that the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) was not involved with municipal staff salaries as the municipality had claimed. He added that half of the Western Cape’s municipalities, who are also DA-run, have paid the increase to their municipal workers. Van Deventer requested that such issues be dealt with internally. Jindela asked that issues such as these be raised to leadership ahead of time, rather than waiting until a meeting to raise it.

The councillors considered the Service Delivery and Budget Implementation Plan (SDBIP) for 2020/21. Van Deventer said she’s concerned about the revenue that is under pressure and expenditure that has increased. Referring to projects being completed, she said they took into consideration that they had lost time with the lockdown and construction and other activities were only allowed recently. She confessed that there are some grey areas in the budget, hence the reason for council to look at it.

When discussing the budget, Hendrickse raised concerns about not all the money being spent in the capital budget and not knowing which projects have been underfunded. He wanted to know why the money that is not being spent in the capital and other budgets where the situation is the same, is not being spent in other areas where more money is needed. He was asked by the speaker to remain on the topic at hand. Councillor Franklin Adams of the DNCA (Democratic New Civic Association) expressed concern at how high certain expenses are, such as the standby allowance and travel expenses. Van Deventer mentioned that these were not final figures. She added that they had already dealt with the struggle of doing projects during lockdown in the SDBIP.
Adams raised concerns about the amount of power given to the municipal manager during the discussion of the delegation of power.

There is a case of contempt of court against Mettler which she addressed during the meeting. She said it was important to mention that the order was not served on her, thus she cannot be in contempt of court. The case has now been withdrawn and conversations are ongoing about the costs involved. She said the order was brought in her personal capacity and not her municipal capacity. Hendrickse said he was concerned about legal representatives that are obtained via deviations. He said that in the previous council there had been a panel that they could draw from for legal assistance which worked much better.
The adjustment budget, adjusted for COVID-19, was accepted.

Hendrickse expressed his disappointment in the outstanding resolutions before council. Adams specifically spoke about GAP (affordable) housing in Jamestown and said the people want to know more about the time frames for the implementation of this housing. Mettler said that progress had been made and that everything is not just standing still, pointing to vacant land being allocated to small farmers as an example.

Next on the discussion was ‘n Pniel property where the owner will get servitude after a long process. The council acknowledged that it has been coming for a long time, but also pointed out that the municipality had been helping. Hendrickse said that although he was happy for the man, he was not happy with Mettler giving leases for public property. He added that it was bad that the Public Protector had to come in and settle things. Everybody supported the item to give the owner servitude of the property, although councillor Phelisa Sitshoti of the ANC asked who would be paying for it. The agenda said that there would be a cost of slightly more than R100 000 to the municipality, with some of the costs possibly being recovered from the provincial department of transport and public works.

The lease of Beyersteeg to the Eikestad mall for the next 9 years and 11 months, as well as an agreement on the monthly payment, was approved by everyone although Adams proposed an amendment. His amendment said that as part of its social responsibility, the mall should pay R10 000 a month to a local NGO. He said that it should preferably go to an NGO in Kayamandi as they were promised developments that never materialised. The EFF and ANC supported the amendment, but still it didn’t stand. The mayor said they have policies in place on how much they can ask for rent and that these policies cannot simply be ignored. The initial lease agreement is voted in.

The ACDP (African Christian Democratic Party) suggested remedial spatial development, especially in the light of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, when discussing an encroachment issue relating to the House Horizon property. The EFF, DNCA and ANC also said that they are against House Horizon’s encroachment, while the DA was for it. Adams suggested an amendment where House Horizon has to negotiate with the Stellenbosch Work Centre to expand their essential services and activities. The EFF, ANC, ACDP, PDM (People’s Democratic Movement) and the DNCA supported the amendment, but the DA didn’t and thus the amendment does not stand. This led to the other parties, except PDM, voting in dissent from the main proposal.

The development of a public road that would be built over portions of council-owned land in Klapmuts and that would go right past the waste transfer station was discussed. Hendrickse said it would not add any value for the municipality and it would only service the development of the developer who wants to build the road, while getting discount for his road because it would be classified as a public road. He further questioned who would be responsible for the maintenance of the road as it would be public. Sitshoti said they wanted a presentation as they cannot support the development without enough information. Councillor Quintin Smit of the DA said that the opposing parties believe that once a developer is involved, they are only benefitting themselves. He said that this was an opportunity to develop Klapmuts economically and they could have mixed-use housing there. Van Deventer said these are long-term plans which are especially important during the time Covid-19 as very few people are now focused on development. Mettler added that it gives valuable access.

Adams suggested an amendment where the developer pays market-related prices for the property and pays all the costs for the road, while providing a detailed social plan to council by September 2020. EFF and ANC supported the amendment, ACDP and PDM abstained, and the DA voted against it. The amendment did thus not stand. The initial item was voted in by ACDP, PDM and DA.

Mettler said the adoption of delegations was for “operational efficiency”. Hendrickse objected and said that council must make legal decisions and that this goes against the legislation. DNCA, ANC and ACDP also didn’t support these delegations, while PDM and DA supported it. Mettler said that insinuations that they were sneaking in items were misleading as the agreement was to send in the whole document of delegations and to then mark in red the changes.