Region B IDP meeting a disgrace

Consultative democracy such as we have in South Africa needs public access to processes – something that was lacking at the Region B session.

News Editor Emily Wellman Bain writes:

When arriving at the Danie van Zyl Recreation Centre, Montclare for the Region B IDP public participation event I was looking forward to an afternoon of robust engagement.

Region B gets the least budget allocation meaning many areas are at best poorly serviced but are rather left to sink ever further into decay and despair.

The hall was packed with concerned residents who were handed Joburg City Theatre bottles of water in anticipation of the two-hour session. The stage groaned under the weight of city officials who had feasted in the adjacent room on a buffet of high-quality food and drink.

The ‘world-class African city’ seemed to be showing off until you looked a little more carefully.

Read more: The mayor meets angry residents from Region B

The women’s, and I assume other bathrooms, had no running water for the throngs of people, and the audio from the microphones made it impossible for engagement as contributions could hardly be heard – let alone understood.

At the back of the hall, and out of sight from most, were several sparkling BMWs and off-road vehicles ready to sweep the ‘important’ people away to no doubt greener pastures following the session.

Due to the poor audio, the single IDP consultative session for Region B was a sham.

Community members could not be heard properly, nor could the officials. The rubber-stamping exercise should have been halted until technicians fixed the mics and speakers at best, or rescheduled altogether.

Those trying to participate online had the same audio feed rendering their participation virtually meaningless.

Due to the event being scheduled on a working day, those with full-time jobs were unable to come in person. These are ratepayers who contribute to the city’s coffers, yet were denied an opportunity to participate in what should be a critically important process that will shape the region for the foreseeable future.

Read more: Region Bs critical service providers on hand to meet community

At one point during the afternoon, a lady taking notes for the city approached me unexpectedly. I was sitting on the side near the front.

The sound was so bad, she asked me if she could have a look at my notes to try and better capture inputs. I was flabbergasted – at least it reinforced that I was not the only one batting to follow proceedings.

MMCs and other officials on stage seemed unconcerned by how the session was unfolding as they spent much of the time either chatting among themselves or entertaining themselves on their mobile phones.

Ninety minutes into the session I left.

I had long stopped gaining anything from sitting and watching proceedings with screaming speakers spewing inaudible cries from the community. So too, it seemed, were others in attendance as they chatted among themselves, many no longer trying to hear inputs.

As far as public participation goes, this was anything but.

As I drove away, I couldn’t help but wonder though, if it was just sheer incompetence as is so often the case with city bodies, or a deliberate tactic.

Related article: Councillors in Region B and JRA have differing opinions when it comes to service delivery

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