Relations between the Northern Areas Residents’ and Ratepayers’ Association (Narra) and Msunduzi Residents Ratepayers Association and Civics (Marrc) have soured over “lack of strategic direction”.
In a scathing open letter, Narra accused Marrc of “internal censorship”, “inconsistency”, and “lack of strategic direction” in dealing with organisational matters.
The spat between the associations is as a result of Marrc’s handling of meetings, media statements and the “unilateral” decision to fundraise for funds to take Msunduzi to court over multi-billing, said Narra.
In the letter, signed by Jimmy Naidoo on behalf of the Chase Valley Corridor Civic Association, Eastwood Residents’ and Ratepayers’ Association, and Narra, the associations distanced themselves from the fundraising drive by Marrc.
Drawing a line in the sand, we three signatory associations cannot address this open letter to ‘the management committee of Marrc’ because that would imply the management committee belonged to Marrc — an umbrella body for members of residents and ratepayers’ and civic organisations. At our previous joint meeting held on May 26, there was a vigorous debate around how to respond to the multiple billing challenge. The Marrc leadership advocated legal action.
“The floor argued that we needed immediate action and had no means of taking the matter to court. The meeting resolved to escalate our complaint to the (Msunduzi) administrator and MEC for Cogta; and should all administrative processes be exhausted we lodge a complaint with the public protector.
“It is a matter of record that the Marrc leadership launched its fundraising for a class-action campaign just two days later, regardless of the route we had agreed collectively,” reads the letter.
The associations said they were advised that the remedy they sought — the suspension of the multiple billing until due process had been followed — would require a declaratory order by a court.
“We were assisting many residents with billing queries, building up knowledge of common issues, and posting advice on our social media platforms.
“We received no external assistance. Where was Marrc? Fundraising for an undefined amount of funds for an undefined legal class action.
“What followed was a barrage of attacks on the Marrc chat group against our three associations for sowing divisions, or not toeing the line, depending on which side of the fence you sat.
“In our defence, we pointed out that we simply followed a necessary and urgent path that had been agreed collectively — and that it was the Marrc leadership that had broken ranks,” said the associations in the letter.
They further accused Marrc of seeking publicity and being opportunistic after the latter featured in The Witness having sought the public protector’s intervention in the billing system.
Not only was this opportunistic in the extreme — after castigating us for doing what you then took the credit for. We all heard senior investigator Narain [on July 7] saying that he had declined to open a case when Marrc had objected because there were multiple complaints and no specific remedy sought.
“He then referred to our letter of June 11 [seeking a refund of overbilling in April] and opened a discussion about other remedies that all parties were agreed to have pursued. This letter is not intended as a complete record of the meeting but to raise, again, fundamental concerns about the way in which the Marrc leadership conducts itself.”
“… This is simply embarrassing. For this reason we can no longer tolerate the internal censorship and the inconsistency in and lack of strategic direction of Marrc’s current leadership. We cannot be associated with Marrc until it opens its doors to a more inclusive membership, and its mind to internal accountability and democracy,” reads the letter.
Marrc confirmed receipt of the open letter. Executive member Kantha Naidoo said the association subscribed to democratic principles, whereby only signed-up members would have a voice to determine the future direction of the organisation. In a written response, Naidoo proposed that all ratepayers associations and civics who wish to be a member of Marrc have until August 31 to submit the necessary paperwork. The letter did not address the allegations made by Narra.
Please note that part of the requirements to join Marrc is that your organisation must be constituted and have the support from the respective ratepayers and civic organisation committee members. Thereafter, we will set the AGM down for a future date as per the constitution and get membership as of August 31, 2023.
“Residents and ratepayers associations who elect to not sign up are welcome to pursue their own interests and engage with Marrc on an ad-hoc / informal basis.
“Kindly be advised that ratepayers associations who do not sign up for membership will not have any voting or decision-making capacity within Marrc,” she said.