PARRA requested a meeting with the Ndlambe LM senior officials in light of various frustrations us as an Association have been experiencing, but also with the flood of questions we had regarding the status of many aspects and issues around Port Alfred. We accordingly met on Thursday, 3 November 2022 with Advocate Rolly Dumezweni (the Municipal Manager); Mr Klaas (Director from the Department of Finance); Mr Babama (Deputy Director of Infrastructure; Mr Fouché (Deputy Director of Community Protection Services) and representing PARRA was Mr Dawie van Wyk (Chairperson) and Ms. Lindsay Luppnow (Vice-Chair). As reiterated multiple times, PARRA seeks to work co-operatively with the Municipality and find solutions together to ensure our residents’ and ratepayers’ interests are most effectively resolved.
A variety of key issues were raised and we appreciate that the Municipal Manager was very particular that timelines and commitments from particular Departments were agreed upon to create effective outcomes and accountability.
For sake of clarity, we shall discuss the various topics raised below:
It has been raised by PARRA that there are some significant shortcomings from Ndlambe LM regarding their communication with their residents’ and ratepayers’. In particular we raised that the website (www.ndlambe.gov.za) is largely inaccurate, out of date and not being effectively used to inform the public and provide the information which they so desperately require. There are also many typos on the Website and it generally looks unprofessional. We have asked that this website be revisited and that resources are allocated to updating and providing a more user friendly experience. We have offered to assist with this as well as providing an effective channel through Facebook for the Municipality. Currently there are no effective pages being used and there is little feedback from the Communication Officer.
PARRA has tried to raise awareness around the Customer Care Officer channel for official reporting. We believe that it has been an effective channel, however raised that there is seems to be little to no actual acknowledgments or feedback given once reported via this email address. WE have found that matters get attended to but with no actual communication sent out to the reporting party. Ndlambe LM acknowledged that there is work to be done here. It was discussed and reiterated that when residents send through reports, queries or complaints, that they are to please be concise, with as many accurate details as possible – such as the particular addresses, photos and so forth.
We have proposed that alternative means of communication are considered and even innovative means to improve the communication between our residents and the Municipality. This is something PARRA is eager to assist with. PARRA has also suggested using the monthly rate bills to communicate messages from Ndlambe LM which are applicable for ratepayers and residents.
PARRA has also raised the difficulty in obtaining general feedback through the correct chains of command and our frustration with cancelled meeting and ignored requests. The Municipal Manager has accordingly advised that this is unacceptable and has asked us to address these issues with him directly in future so that the can address these issues with the Ndlambe LM officials.
We are pleased that Ndlambe LM representatives are open to continue our lines of communication and solve the issues raised. This is a fundamental issue and a great point of frustration which has been acknowledged and addressed.
PARRA raised the issue of the dreaded “Water Availability” Charge which appears on the monthly rates accounts. We have raised this before as this levy is not only for water but for infrastructure as well. We raised that this charge, under its current title, creates endless frustration for our ratepayers and residents, particularly when there is no water flowing from the taps. It has accordingly be agreed that this title will be changed and the explanation provided on the monthly rates bills as to what this levy is actually for.
This seems to be a never ending situation which PARRA monitors and raises almost on a daily basis, through reporting on our WhatsApp group with Ndlambe LM, as well as through the other official channels. PARRA has requested the audit of all the existing 21 sewerage pump stations, to date this has not been provided. PARRA has issued a challenge to Ndlambe LM’s Infrastructure Department to have no sewerage leaks and that the pump stations will be working by the end of November 2022, otherwise officials at Ndlambe LM must be taken to task on this.
Main sewerage areas of concern raised were: Station Hill near the SPCA; Van Der Riet Street, Becker Street, Sports Road, Sunningdale, Seabreeze Road, the Kowie Museum and the three pump stations in Nemato. We further raised the total lack of official communication and/or public information on the new Port Alfred East Bank sewage upgrade plan and whether a valid EIA for the different parts of this sewage upgrade have been attended to. Another area of concern raised was Biscay Road which seems to be a permanent sewer. The sewage/water then runs into the storm water drains and into the Duck Pond and from there into Kiddies Beach and then into the Kowie River.
Sewage is continuously spilling from Panorama View’s conservancy tanks and running into the storm water drain into Boundary Road which continuously stinks of raw sewage. Mr Babama advised that 3 more tanks are due to be installed in this area and that there will be 3 more connections.
Mr Babama reiterated that the Sewage Stations are constantly being vandalised and that theft is a huge problem. There are due to be cages places over the stations most affected to protect them from theft and vandalism. The use of security guards has been largely ineffective as they are often attacked and chased away.
Again it was reiterated that official communication is needed from Ndlambe LM to provide our residents and ratepayers with the information and to know that there are plans and systems in place. PARRA has also suggested that signage with the names of the pump stations be placed at the pumps to make for easier reporting when issues arise and therefore speedier resolve. Ndlambe LM has undertaken to do this.
An issue which has been previously raised is the Main Street of Port Alfred. During the replacement of the main pipeline, it became very clear that the tenants and businesses on and surrounding the Main Street are some of the largest contributors to the blockages which occur. Much of the debris causing the blockages includes fat, nappies, synthetic hair and condoms. This type of debris blocks sewage pipes and the resulting sewage spills into the centre of town. It was discussed that these issues need to be addressed with the landlords, businesses and owners in this area. It was agreed upon that there will be a joint effort between the Department of Infrastructure and Community Protection Services to give notices to the relevant parties. This has been undertaken to be done by 18 November 2022. PARRA is pleased at this as these blockages cause revenue to be taken from other projects and at the end cost the ratepayers.
The Municipal Manager stated that there is an urgent need to have a contractor employed to attend to the issue of the pump stations, similar to that function which CDR Electrical performs for the electricity. PARRA supports this as the current system is not satisfactory.
PARRA has requested clarity from the Department of Infrastructure on whether there is a maintenance program in place for the water pumps. We would like to see a planned program for maintenance to be developed with a schedule and a backup system of standby pumps for critical pump stations to ensure that our access to water is not compromised. It was reiterated that maintenance will be more effective than only attending to the pumps when they have already failed. Our Chair also reiterated the need for a proper telemetry reporting system to be in place so that accurate levels of the dams and reservoirs can be provided. PARRA has requested monthly reports on the water status at the different water sources, in the form of a small table. Ndlambe Municipality has undertaken to provide this by the end of November 2022.
PARRA raised the issue of the noise and lights from the 1 ML RO plant on the banks of the Kowie River. This is a constant and serious cause of irritation to the residents across the river. Ndlambe Municipality has confirmed that this plant will be moved to a different location and confirmed that it was only erected as part of the emergency measures needed.
Community Protection Services:
PARRA is deeply concerned about the impact of the brine levels in the Kowie River. We have previously raised this with the Department but had not had feedback on it. Residents who live on the Kowie River (opposite the brine outlet from the 1 ML RO Plant near the old wreck) maintain that the brine is increasing the salinity of the water to such an extent that it is killing the sea grass and the seaweed which has grown extremely well after the 2012 flood. We are deeply concerned about the devastating effect this could have on the flora and fauna of the Kowie River. This also happened after the last temporary 1 ML RO Plant was installed in the same place. Fish life was reduced, prawns disappeared and the general health of the river deteriorated drastically. Neither of these plants have had EIA’s done nor has any research been conducted into the devastating effect the increase in salinity will have on poisoning the Kowie River. Ndlambe LM has confirmed that the RO plant is due to be moved and at this new location it will be closer to the sea and therefore can be sent out to sea and redistributed correctly. We will continue to monitor this situation.
As part of our Community work, PARRA along with Sunshine Coast Tourism and the Port Alfred Business Forum attended to the upliftment of the area around the Civic Centre and Public Library. Ndlambe LM had undertaken thereafter to maintain the gardens. PARRA has had a private gardener attend to these areas on three separate occasions however this was not in accordance with our agreement. The Library Gardens are already looking neglected and not being maintained. Feedback was given that the gardener who maintained this area was moved to another area but that a new gardener has now been appointed. We are pleased at this feedback and will continue to monitor in terms of this Agreement.
PARRA raised the issues that there are many overgrown plots in Port Alfred (including numerous ones owned by the Ndlambe LM). It has become clear that these are a haven for drug dealers and thieves and are providing a huge security risk for the residents of our Town. We discussed and applauded SAPS and local businesses, such as Multi Security who have launched “Take back our Town” in helping clean up. We have asked that private residents be held accountable for neglected plots. Mr Fouché advised that Ndlambe LM had applied for a grant for a period of 3 years to clear alien vegetation in the area, they await that outcome. He further explained that Ndlambe LM has a short term plan in place where a department of our local Fire Brigade are assisting with cleaning plots belonging to Ndlambe LM under the banner of Fire Prevention. We are pleased at this and believe that this is step in the right direction.
Lastly, we discussed the appointment of the new Bylaw Compliance Officer and feedback on his work since his appointment. We raised the issue of illegal hawkers, particularly around Main Street in Port Alfred and have been advised that there is a plan in place to deal with this, the details to be provided in due course. In the meantime, the Compliance Officer has been removing those without the necessary permits and permission. We are pleased that this was put into practice on 4 November 2022 when Lindsay Luppnow, our Vice-Chair, reported various hawkers around the Main Street and confirm that there were promptly removed. PARRA believes Bylaw compliance can be a huge revenue generator and ensure we maintain the aesthetics of our Town.
To conclude, we are pleased to have a continued relationship of co-operation between PARRA and Ndlambe LM. We believe that a number of key issues were raised and discussed and we look forward to further meetings and outcomes. We ask residents to please be proactive and ensure that information is shared. Thank you to our officials for your cooperation and we look forward to continuing our work towards building a better Port Alfred.