The Msunduzi Association of Residents, Ratepayers, and Civics (Marrc) has received office space from which to operate free of charge.
A local businessman, hearing all the challenges the association is faced with, decided to donate office space including a boardroom for use of the ratepayers’ watchdog.
A local businessman Kevin Beekrum has offered office space at his company premises in the central business district where residents can easily engage with Marrc.
Beekrum said this was his contribution to supporting civic activism.
I challenge others to do the same because this is for the benefit of the ratepayers. My business is in the centre of the town so it is strategically positioned for ratepayers to access it easily. No contribution is small.
“Give what you have to enable this organisation to continue helping the vulnerable residents of our city,” said Beekrum on Monday.
Marrc chairperson Anthony Waldhausen said they were now becoming a “professional” non-profit organisation with an affiliation joining fee of R200.
Waldhausen revealed this during Marrc’s recent first annual general meeting since its establishment.
At the meeting, Waldhausen presented a detailed progress report from 2019 to 2023.
“Marrc is to shift to become a professional nonprofit organisation with an affiliate membership and all affiliated members will form part of the executive committee.
There would be a R200 affiliate per individual organisation. Marrc did an analysis of all correspondence with Msunduzi Municipality and Cogta and found that 84% of correspondence was not responded to during the period under review. Out of 51 letters, only eight were responded to.
“This is the sad reality of poor municipal governance,” said Waldhausen.
He said among the issues raised at the meeting was the impact of lack of funding on Marrc. He said the lack of funding stymied the implementation of Marrc activities that will have a positive impact on local communities in Pietermaritzburg. This includes providing administrative and training support to RRAs, community projects, research work, broader participation at all levels of local government, legal and social justice issues, education awareness campaigns, and advocacy.
Waldhausen said they have also identified many challenges faced by residents and ratepayers associations (RRAs) around Msunduzi.
It was a challenge for some RRAs to take off post-Covid-19 which resulted in many closing down. Divisions within the RRA committees and causing friction were another challenge, and lack of a clear vision or strategy for the purpose of the RRA. Fatigue in engaging the municipality with no wins is another challenge.
He said the legal challenge against Msunduzi municipality on billing issues has been the worst as residents continue to experience many billing inaccuracies.
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It is for this reason that Marrc has embarked on a fundraising drive to raise R250 000 for legal costs to take legal action against the municipality, he said.
“To date we have raised R26 000 and the campaign still continues to raise funds. We have also lodged a complaint to the public protector on the multiple billing cycle which is still under investigation.
“Government has become an impediment to progress, and we have witnessed it here within the Msunduzi Municipality.
“Having Marrc reposition itself to become a professional NPO and focus on community projects and moving it to become an affiliate-led organisation can take it to the next level of its development.
“We, therefore, need funding to operationalise Marrc and to implement the programme’s activities in order to make an impact on citizens,” he said.
He said Marrc lacked major resources including office space as it was a challenge to meet residents who need assistance with billing issues and other community issues.
Msunduzi Municipality had not responded to requests for comment by the time of publication.