Umdoni Rates Dispute and Diversion
*Section 1 of 2* - INTRODUCTION

This section provides some background to what has previously been explained in UAG’s emails, WhatsApps and press releases.

SHOULD YOU WISH TO SKIP Sections 1 and 2, please scroll down to the Google Form, to record your participation, commencing with your email address.

Dear Umdoni Ratepayers.

This introduction is a bit long, but it attempts to address all the questions and concerns related to this matter.

1) UAG (Umdoni Action Group) was established in September 2015 with the main purpose of engaging with UM (Umdoni Municipality) to assist, encourage or otherwise bring about positive changes to standards of service delivery throughout the Umdoni municipal area. Our experience so far has been that even if we have received responses to our emails, or have had meetings with UM and COGTA, these responses have resulted in no more than a continuous cycle of apologies-excuses-promises, but almost zero rectification or resolution by UM.

2) This unacceptable situation has been compounded by the additional damage to the SA economy (and consequently to our earnings and savings) caused by the extended Covid-19 Lockdown. It is therefore long past due to say to UM: no more abuse of our hard-earned funds, especially while you award yourselves ever-increasing salaries.

3) The topic of rates withholding has been discussed in Umdoni, and throughout SA, for many years. A few success stories have been publicised (Great Kei, Harrismith), but these have been with the co-operation of the local municipality. Unfortunately, UM has ignored all the attempts, since 2013, initially by FPRA (Freeland Park Ratepayers' Association) and subsequently by SRA (Scottburgh Ratepayers' Association) and UAG (Umdoni Action Group), to work together constructively for the benefit of ALL Umdoni residents, irrespective of political persuasion or race. It is clear to those of us who have insight into the Umdoni Annual Budgets of the past many years, and to those who have travelled within the rural areas, that disproportionate amounts have been allocated to the non-ratepaying areas, to the exclusion and detriment of those who live and pay rates in the urban and suburban areas of Umdoni. The evidence lies before us: broken roads and stormwater systems, crumbling basic infrastructure, decrepit CBD, very few street lights, overgrown verges and parks. The list is almost endless.

4) During May 2020, UAG launched this Rates Diversion initiative in Freeland Park, followed by the rest of Umdoni, including Scottburgh Central and South, Park Rynie, Pennington, Sezela to Mtwalume, Umzinto, for which 7 separate WhatsApp groups have been created.

5) The Google Form at the end of Section 2 below is being used to record the details of those who wish to participate in withholding their rates from UM. Participants’ details, accumulated in the Google Form as a Declaration of Dispute, are emailed to UM’s MM, Customer Services and Accounts Department, normally on a monthly basis, as an ongoing reminder that our numbers are growing and that we ratepayers will not continue with the irrationality of paying for services which we continually do not receive.

6) Should our complaints not be resolved within a reasonable period, we will impose on UM an ultimatum, in which we will reserve the right to effect repairs using the diverted funds and our own labour, contractors and material.

7) Our experience has shown that Rates Diversion Participants prefer to withhold their rates in their own bank accounts, usually in a separate account created for this purpose. This obviates the need for a Trust account and for running a separate accounts department.

8) some basic research into the legalities of this initiative confirm the following:
8.1) non-payment of rates is not a criminal offence, but a civil matter;
8.2) Section 102 (2) of the Municipal Systems Act, provides that, by "Declaring a Dispute" with UM, as we are doing, UM's credit control and debt collection processes are suspended until the dispute is resolved;
8.3) furthermore, your credit rating cannot be blemished unless a court judgement is obtained against you;
8.4) judgement can only be obtained against you if you ignore a summons issued by UM's debt collection attorneys, AND the matter proceeds to court, AND your case is lost;
8.5) our experience since May 2020 is that UM does not proceed beyond issuing summons. Should summons be issued against you, please immediately email umdoni.action.group@iafrica.com

9) Although not directly related to what we are trying to achieve with UM, there is a recent case in which judgement was given in favour of residents against Makana (Grahamstown) Municipality
https://www.polity.org.za/article/unemployed-peoples-movement-v-premier-province-of-the-eastern-cape-and-others-5532019-2020-zaecghc-1-2020-01-17
Most importantly, the municipality’s application to appeal the judgement was refused 21 May 2020
https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2020-05-22-they-should-hang-their-heads-in-shame-court-affirms-that-makana-municipality-must-be-dissolved/

10) If your property is for sale, as are many, you might be concerned that you will be unable to conclude the sale without obtaining a rates clearance certificate from UM. The solution is clear: should your property be sold, simply settle your rates account with the money which has been retained in your bank account.

11) If your rates are paid annually, or you are in arrears with your rates payments, or you are already withholding your rates payments, please still add your responses to the form below, to stand in unity with those of us who are already participating in this initiative.

12) Please complete a new form for each property you own in Umdoni.

13) PLEASE FORWARD the following link, which leads to this form, to all your contacts in the Umdoni area
https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfYve6LFq3Ngd8JTT4gU-90ckLSKifYXdQWwziNoiGlmoVt6A/viewform

14) PLEASE COMMUNICATE your concerns or ideas to umdoni.action.group@iafrica.com

15) SOCIALLY ACTIVE ratepayers are invited to volunteer their services to help UAG grow this initiative.

16) Advice to those who “don’t want to get involved” is quite simply:
16.1) you are already involved, by virtue of being an Umdoni resident;
16.2) this initiative only has a chance of success if ALL Umdoni ratepayers stand up as one and declare to UM that we will no longer allow our hard-earned rates payments to be misused and/or misappropriated;
16.3) please let your involvement be part of the solution to our UM problem, and not part of the apathy problem.

Thank you for your anticipated participation.

Geoff Smailes
UAG Founder Member
UAG ExCo: Ione Bowman; Theunis Boyens; Sandie Curtis; Gareth Hampson; Judith Hampson; Thabani Mkhize; Goodman Ncobeni; Sharon Revell; Geoff Smailes; Justin Thiel; Ricky Windell.
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” (Edmund Burke. Irish Orator & Philosopher. 1729-1797).

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*Section 2 of 2* - DECLARATION OF DISPUTE

Opening date 25 May 2020
Closing date once UM provides its mandated services

The following text, together with Ratepayers' responses collected in the form below, is emailed to UM on a regular basis.

We, the undersigned Ratepayers, formally notify the Umdoni Municipality as follows:

1) with immediate effect we hereby Declare a Dispute with UM. Consequently we shall retain our assessment rates in our own bank accounts, until our requests expressed elsewhere herein are responded to by UM;

2) we are not taking this action with regard to any political, racial or religious prejudices, but simply because UM, year after year, continues to fail in its legislated duty to provide adequate services and to maintain municipal infrastructure, as follows:

2.1) LEGALLY - UM has failed to adequately provide for or utilise Annual Budgets for even a small percentage of our rates payments. In addition, UM failed to follow its own legislated processes in respect of ratepayer input and voting by Council in respect of the 2018-2019, 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 IDPs and Budgets. Consequently, the IDPs and Budgets for the aforementioned years were legally defective, which therefore renders the QUANTUM of rates being levied to our accounts as incorrect. This is the basis of our Declaration of Dispute. To compound UM’s ineptitude, a 3.9% rates increase has been included in the 2021-2022 IDP and Budget. Not only is this increase unconscionable, it also confirms that UM is out of touch with the economic reality faced by private sector ratepayers;

2.2) GENERALLY – urban roads, stormwater, streetlights, verges, municipal parks, aborted 2016 Scottburgh CBD rehabilitation project, UM’s responsibilities in respect of derelict vacant private erven, etc;

2.3) SPECIFICALLY – the 505 Umdoni-wide complaints included in file "UAG UM Survey responses 20190502.xlsx" emailed to the previous Municipal Manager (Dr V Tsako) and to Customer Services (Ms Shanaz Khan) on May 05, 2019 10:37 AM. Despite Ms Khan’s diligent attempts to have the problems rectified (per numerous email communications with UAG until 12 Dec 2019) there have been no noticeable rectifications from UM, and the consequent state of neglect has deteriorated even further during 2020;

2.4) in addition to the above, there have been numerous specific complaints to UM from individual ratepayers, as well as from FPRA (Freeland Park Ratepayers’ Association), SRA (Scottburgh Ratepayers’ Association) and UAG (Umdoni Action Group), since at least 2013;

2.5) furthermore, the many attempts of constructive engagement with UM’s senior management by civic organisations such as FPRA, SRA and UAG have continuously been ignored by UM’s senior management;

3) our diverted rates will be released to UM if/when UM has proved significant progress in technically acceptable rehabilitation of neglected municipal infrastructure. Should this not occur within a reasonable period, we reserve the right to effect repairs using our diverted funds and our own labour, contractors and material.

We understand that by participating in this action and by entering our details below:
a) our personal particulars will not be shared with other parties, but will be included in reports emailed to UM;
b) UM is likely to debit our rates accounts with interest charges. At UM's present rate of 7.5% pa, interest amounts to R6.25 per R1000 per month;
c) we have not been coerced into participating in this action, and do so of our own free will;
d) we will not hold the organisers of this initiative liable for any losses or damages which we might suffer as a result of our participation in this action.

NB: after you have completed the Google Form (*denotes required fields) and clicked the Submit button, you will receive both an on-screen and an email confirmation.
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Email *
Number of properties owned in Umdoni area (personally or in companies, trusts, etc) *
If the ratepayer owns multiple properties, too many to list here individually, please enter details of your primary property/ies below, then email an Excel file to umdoni.action.group@iafrica.com, containing owner's name, address, erf number, arrears (if any), amount to be diverted, monthly or annually, expected month of next rates diversion / retention, similar to the following questions
Ratepayer's Last Name (or Company Name) *
If the ratepayer is a company, please use that name, eg ABC (Pty) Ltd. If the ratepayer owns multiple properties, too many to list here individually, please enter owner of your primary property/ies here, having selected the appropriate checkbox above
Ratepayer's First Name (or Company representative and position) *
If the ratepayer is a company, please state representative’s name and position, eg John Smith, Director. If the ratepayer owns multiple properties, too many to list here individually, please enter owner of your primary property/ies here, having selected the appropriate checkbox above
Suburb / town in the Umdoni area *
Please complete a new Form like this for each property you own in Umdoni. If the ratepayer owns multiple properties, too many to list here individually, please select the location of your primary property/ies here, having selected the appropriate checkbox above
Street name and number *
Please use the format "Scott Str 01" or "Townhouse 01, Scott Str 01". If the ratepayer owns multiple properties, too many to list here individually, please enter address of your primary property/ies here, having selected the appropriate checkbox above
Erf / stand number (if known)
4 numerics, as per rates invoice (eg 1111)
Cell number (principal ratepayer) *
At least 12 characters, without spaces, in the format +27831234567
I am socially / organisationally active in my immediate community, and would like to represent my suburb / town (eg as a Community Leader) to participate in UAG initiatives such as this *
Required
Amount already in arrears with UM
Please provide answer only if your rates payments are not up to date
Clear selection
Days (approx) since last payment to UM
Please provide answer only if your rates payments are not up to date
Amount to be retained is monthly or annual ? *
Amount to be retained in my own bank account *
It is recommended to continue paying UM for Refuse Removal, as this service is provided
Expected date of initial retention in my own bank account *
This question is for both monthly and annual ratepayers
In addition to our complaints included in file "UAG UM Survey responses 20190502.xlsx" emailed to the previous Municipal Manager (Dr V Tsako) on 5 May 2019 10h37, we also have the following complaints. Complaint 1 *
Details of complaint 1 *
Please include location of problem, eg: pole number of broken street light; nearest street address to pothole; intersection where drain is blocked
Complaint 2
Details of complaint 2
Please include location of problem, eg: pole number of broken street light; nearest street address to pothole; intersection where drain is blocked
Complaint 3
Details of complaint 3
Please include location of problem, eg: pole number of broken street light; nearest street address to pothole; intersection where drain is blocked
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