The reckless disregard of politicians for the public’s will continues in Knysna. Yet again, the DA, ANC and COPE have unanimously agreed to give themselves a pay increase. This time it’s 5%. You may not think that’s a lot but it definitely is when you consider the state of Knysna and the fact that we don’t have the money. Let me repeat that – WE DON’T HAVE THE MONEY! It’s financial rape.
Knysna is a small town. Although i disagree with the census figure of 68 000 (we’re nearer 100 000), we’re still little in comparison to the cities yet our politicians think they’re bigger. The truth is that BIG should only be applied to our PROBLEMS.
Our roads, like much of South Africa’s, are a mess. It may not be more important than hungry people but it’s become a metaphor for maladministration. Lauren Waring, our Municipal Manager, who earns R1.4 million p/a, blatantly lied at a Ward 10 meeting that all our roads would be repaired. We were 70% (R7 million) short on the budget then but now that’s risen to 75%. And that’s just this year’s pitfall as the overall backlog is apparently R64 million.
Roads is but a single issue in a far bigger worry. If Knysna were a business it would’ve been declared bankrupt long ago. Instead, greedy municipal staff and politicians have ensured that the salaries have gone up by borrowing money. That borrowing and the interest is destroying the future of Knysna.
Knysna may have a reputation as the playground for the rich (and some of them have settled here) but financial apartheid is severe. Almost half of the Coloured community, the biggest demographic, is unemployed. And that’s just the government’s official figure which most consider to lean towards less so that they look better. Even if you are employed, does earning R2000 per month at a chicken shop make a single black mom and her family secure? And, in Knysna, unlike some places, the one equality we’ve got is that it’s a white matter too. The failure of so many small businesses has put a lot of people into debt so that we are still seeing them fall out of our town. Each year, my income has gotten smaller so that i live far below minimum wage. I may live an alternative lifestyle but others would be glad to have a job (or a better job) but being white males in a BEE world (another thing the DA agrees with the ANC) offers little prospects. I, like many i know, am poor. Whilst the lives of the public regress, how can the politicians justify improving theirs???
Between 2010 and 2013, salaries increase by R56 million which was 10% of the overall budget of Knysna! What faith can we have in our politicians stopping these absurd municipal staff salaries (this year, six will earn over R1 million with two near R1.5 million) if they keep increasing their own? Even if they did, for the first time, imagine the hypocrisy. It’s a disgusting state of no-win for the public.
Ian Stewart reported in Shocking Financial Revelations that: “Council basic employee costs will have risen by 93% on average by 2013/14 since 2009/10. Why? Who are they serving? Empty businesses and factories! Finance directorate increased by “only” 81%. And the ringer – Executive and Council increased by 116%!! Corporate services by 105%, 100% in Planning and 86% in Community Services. And for this shocking state of affairs they vote themselves bonuses in excess of what the average man in the street earns in a year!”
Hypocrisy is, unfortunately, nothing new. Louise Hart is a DA Councillor on the Mayoral Committee (which means she earns more than a regular councillor) and the Chairperson of Planning (for Infrastructure and Development). She’s voted for the salary hike (as she did last year) at a Special Council Meeting that lasted less than 10 minutes.
In 2010, when the ANC were still in charge of Knysna, Louise Hart was the chairperson of the Sedgefield Ratepayers and Voters Association (Sedgefield is a district in Knysna).
When the politicians voted for an increase, she was reported in The Herald newspaper as being “flabbergasted” at the pay hike and stated: “At a time when ordinary citizens, especially the poor and pensioners, are under severe financial pressure because of the recession, the council not only decides to award itself a 7% increase in salary and allowances, but does so in a manner which appears calculated to avoid public scrutiny. At short notice the council called a special meeting, which it knew would not be publicly advertised and at which the public would therefore not be present, to pass increases for councillors at the maximum allowable level… there has developed a big disjuncture, especially at municipal level, between the people and the politicians who are supposed to serve them… One would think that at least some of the politicians would have the sensitivity to oppose any increase for themselves at this time and show the public that they are prepared to share in the suffering of their constituents. The money saved by freezing councillors’ salaries and allowances could be used to improve services to the public.” Such double-standards!
It gets worse when considering the petition against salary increase that was signed by 209 people. It may seem small but that’s a remarkable figure in a town where most, especially white people, are too afraid to squeak against the DA lest it affect their jobs or their businesses. The towns interest and concern is obviously there considering the many comments made on the Facebook post that had over 10 000 views. The petition was sent to Helen Zille and Knysna’s Mayor, Georlene Wolmarans. Their response was – N O T H I NG. That’s right, in the spirit of the DA’s version of democracy, they chose not to respond. They are determined to deepen the massive disconnect between themselves and us. They continually show us that they don’t care about us in Knysna.
When will the public stop moaning and do something? When will they hold the politicians accountable?
How can the salaries of elected officials not be tied to the financial health of the people who elected them? It’s as absurd as banks and investment houses making more profit out of pension funds than the people whose pension funds they hold.
This is self-service, not public service. It makes me angry because it’s a big middle finger pointed at Knysna by the DA, more so than the ANC and COPE, because they are in charge and have totally destroyed their election promise of austerity!