Cuan Elgin | VF Plus, watchdog of the Western Cape

Cuan Elgin, a VF+ District Councilor for Overstrand, makes the case for the VF+'s role in keeping the DA to account, in the 60% of the councils in the province where they govern

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Apr 12, 2024

Cuan Elgin | VF Plus, watchdog of the Western Cape

When the VF Plus in municipal council are referred to by the DA as 'the opposition' I have often retorted that we are in fact 'the competition': we don't just differ on policy, we offer a different vision.

Yes, we will oppose the DA if we do not agree with what they are proposing, but equally, we will support them when what they propose fits our vision & mission. Even if we are in coalition (as we are in almost 60% of Western Cape municipalities) the VF Plus is not there merely to rubber-stamp DA motions - we are not 'DA-led'.

For starters, we position ourselves as a watchdog for the interests of the ratepayers. Time and again, we see that the DA uses our ratepayers' money as a vote-gathering fund. This could be in the form of their much-vaunted 'pro-poor budgets', which are used sometimes to supply services to non-ratepayers; often, to illegal squatters.

Make no mistake, the VF Plus is not without compassion for the plight of 'the poor'. We stand for Christian values. However, when these 'poor' are comprised of lawbreakers or illegal land invaders, who then 'demand' free services, we draw the line.

The DA appears to labour under the delusion that by allowing (even condoning) illegal squatting, and then legitimising such law-breaking by laying on services, they will garner more votes. Wrong!

A classic case in point is the Overstrand Municipality, where I currently live, and where we have owned property for 20 years. It is a DA-dominated municipality, which has seen an invasion of at least 10 000 squatters, who forcefully took over about 40ha of what was a 'protected' & endangered Milkwood forest; one of the most important in the country. That forest was illegally felled & burned, and is now a sprawling, corrugated-iron slum of about 4 000 shacks: right in the middle of our once-upmarket Hermanus; the safe, clean, beautiful whale-watching capital of the world.

What did the DA do? Well, first of all, they made only a half-hearted attempt to stop the invasion. Then, they surrendered to the militant squatters, and convinced Province (also 'DA-led' of course) to cough up about R32m - of 'our' taxpayer money, at the end of the day - to purchase the land from the private owners, who had planned to build a mixed-use housing development.

Then, the DA municipality laid on electricity, water & sewage services, and turned a blind eye to the fact that not one of the thousands of shacks complied with municipal bylaws, or any building standards; despite that fact that this same municipality is known to be ruthlessly efficient in enforcing municipal bylaws & building regulations on our Ratepayers... only.

As a DA vote-gathering exercise, this pandering to illegal squatters was a dismal failure. A by-election held in the 'squatter-camp ward' saw the DA garner a paltry 4% of the votes! The balance went to the ANC, the EFF and the even-more radical Land Party, whose leadership was instrumental in facilitating the land invasion, in the first place.

Worse was to come. Despite a 'Social Compact' mentored by then-Premier Helen Zille, which all interested & affected parties signed (under duress, it must be said, by our beleaguered Ratepayers), to build a mixed-use 'Better Living Model' housing development, of which the squatter-camp area would become a component (but with decent housing), the current Overstrand administration, shortly after re-taking office in the 2021 Local Elections, unilaterally scrapped that Compact.

The Overstrand's Executive Mayor then unilaterally set up a 'Steering Committee' of 'beneficiaries only' packed with & chaired by representatives of the squatters. Virtually all the other signatories to the original Social Compact, as well as those locals on the legitimate, long-awaited housing list, were summarily removed.

Then, it emerged that the OM's plan had now morphed into a 'serviced slab & shack' type of 'development' instead of a proper, mixed-use, decent housing development. These squatters/beneficiaries would also receive title deeds. Thus, in one fell swoop, what were originally illegal land invaders, would become 'legitimate' property owners within the municipality.

Would they pay rates, or would they continue to snub their noses at this concept, and continue with their total disregard for municipal bylaws & building regulations? That would remain to be seen. Regardless, their original, illegal & violent land-invasion of prime development property is being enthusiastically legitimised by the DA.

Crime, as could be expected, is now all-pervasive.

Knysna, that priceless jewel of the Western Cape, is in similar, dire straits. Now that the infrastructure is fast crumbling under the weight of thousands of squatters, the DA is quick to lay the blame on the new ANC/PA/EFF administration. However, who originally allowed the squatters to settle there in the first place, and then laid on services (and a football stadium) for said squatters? You guessed it: the DA!

That's why we, as the VF Plus, will increasingly make our voices heard, and our presence felt, in the Western Cape. We will not stand idly by and allow the DA to ruin our beautiful province with their misguided 'social engineering'.

Remember, the much-vaunted 'clean audit' for a municipality merely indicates that all monies received, have been accounted for. It does not mean that all monies received, were wisely (or even legitimately) spent.

The VF Plus is there to make sure that our ratepayers (i.e., those who pay the DA piper), will be the ones to call the tune. We act as a watchdog; to judiciously apply checks & balances. We will not allow our ratepayers to be used for party-political ends.

Our vision as the VF Plus is for a safe, clean, well-maintained, prosperous Western Cape, in which the Rule of Law is paramount; a province wisely governed in the best interests of all our law-abiding residents. That is also our mission.

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