Coordinators of the proposed Central Special Rates Area (SRA) presented their plan for a better tomorrow to a group of German university students in Port Elizabeth yesterday.
The Central SRA interim committee told the visiting students from Otto-Friedrich University in Bamberg that the aim was to facilitate and complement the Nelson Mandela Bay metro’s delivery of basic services, to introduce supplementary services like Wi-Fi and urban art, to upgrade historic buildings and “squeeze out the baddies”.
Critics at the meeting said the standard SRA premise of raising funds through a levy imposed on Central property owners to achieve these goals was, however, problematic, and would cut the voice of rental tenants, most of whom were already previously disadvantaged.
Central SRA spokesmanOtto-Friedrich University said of the 4 397 erfs in Central, 3 973 were privately owned properties – the balance being buildings belonging to the metro and nonprofit organisations, plus schools and churches.
A five-year plan is required as a first step in terms of getting an SRA instituted and, after a year’s work, this plan is now complete and is being presented to property owners.
The aim is to acquire the 50-plus-one percent approval needed for the plan to be submitted to the metro.
If the metro approves the SRA, all property owners in the designated area – even those who do not support it – would have a levy added to their normal rates bill which would fund the SRA’s work, Brown said.
The Central SRA would facilitate the delivery of basic services by first collating complaints received by residents and ensuring their delivery to the correct metro unit.
On the primary problem of crime, the SRA would employ a private security firm, whose services would include 24-hour armed patrols, street cameras, licence recognition cameras to keep track of vehicles in the area and smartphone panic buttons for all residents.
On waste management, Brown said the Central SRA would work to overcome the huge culture of litter in South Africa via education programmes and pressuring the metro to implement its long-dormant littering fine bylaw.
It would also invest in a private litter-picking team and truck and more bins for Central.
“Our view is that with an improvement in the visual aspect of our area, solutions to the other problems will follow,” Brown said.
He said the SRA’s urban renewal plan to renovate Central’s historic settler buildings made good sense. “By doing so, we would be securing history and the future. Investment will follow.”
However, resident Nadeema Musthan said the plan was unacceptable as tenants would be forced out of the area as gentrification occurred, buildings were renovated and rentals rose.
“I have no problem with civic mobilisation, but it must be for the benefit of all communities, especially the poorest,” Musthan said.
Central SRA committee member Rod Allardyce replied that all residents, including tenants, would benefit from an SRA. “Who wants to live in a slum?” he asked. Central lawyer Salmaan Fredericks said his premises had been burgled five times already.
“A way has to be found to secure property at the same time as engaging in social justice,” he said.
“This meeting is a step in the right direction.”
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