South Africa: rights of English and Afrikaans speakers ignored

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Tue Sep 5 13:14:58 UTC 2006

Major confrontation looming over controversial new rates policy
By: Frans van der Merwe

A major confrontation is looming after the Makhado Municipal Council once
again defied residents objections this week and officially accepted a
highly controversial new property rates policy with potentially disastrous
consequences. The practical effect may be that an average family now
paying R200 a month in tax may be forced to pay R1 500 a month under the
new policy. The official decision came despite a stream of protests. The
acceptance of this policy came in total disregard of serious objections,
also against Councils failure to adhere to the consultation procedures
prescribed by law:

* All Christian churchgoers in Makhado (Louis Trichardt) were deliberately
excluded from the consultative process prescribed by the Municipal
Property Rates Act. * The basic language rights of Afrikaans- and
English-speaking taxpayers were also pointedly ignored in consultative
meetings which continued to be scheduled on Sunday mornings, regardless of
various written objections against this blatant infringement on the
religious rights of residents who practice the Christian religion.

Written objections against these intolerable violations of basic rights
enshrined in the South African Constitution have been directed to local,
provincial and national authorities. Particulars of the Makhado Municipal
Councils grossly insulting attitude towards the religious and language
rights of its taxpayers came to light this week, when the Chairpersons
Association (CA) published the contents of correspondence to Council from
various quarters which endeavoured to assist Council in conducting an
acceptable process within the parameters of the law. Although receipt of
all these letters was acknowledged, the contents were pointedly ignored in
the further actions of Council. The CA emphatically repeated that the said
meetings are invalid for the purposes of consultation as prescribed by the
Municipal Property Rates Act.

All Christian residents in the municipal area and all Afrikaans- and
English-speaking taxpayers were side-lined, insulted and pointedly ignored
in these consultative meetings scheduled by the Makhado Municipality on
Sundays. Those who did attend these meetings were deliberately misled by
Councils representatives about the status of the said meetings. Details of
this gross and blatantly unlawful insensitivity are further revealed in a
statement issued this week by the CA. The CA says Councils intolerable
conduct can be seen as part of a deliberate effort to try and sneak
through measures which would not be able to pass the democratic test of
responsible deliberations and negotiations with all stakeholders.

The Chairpersons Association, which earlier brought the whole situation to
the attention of the provincial and national authorities, lashed out this
week against what they consider the arrogantly uninformed reply by
Councils PRO, Mr. Peter Muleya, to an earlier CA statement calling for a
return to lawful procedures in the important consultative process. Muleyas
effort to affirm that all legal requirements for the consultative process
have been met, is once again firmly rejected by the CA. The CA says Muleya
should read the letters addressed to Council on the topic, before he
engages himself in the discussion. In several letters to Council, it is
specifically stated that the issue must be referred back to the Executive
Committee for consideration of all objections in order to have a proper
process introduced as prescribed by legislation.

Regardless of all these developments, the Makhado Municipal Council in its
meeting this week accepted the highly controversial property rates draft
as official policy, which implies that Council considers the requirements
of the law as having been met. The CA says a major outcry can be expected
when property owners wake up to the potentially devastating practical
consequences of this development.


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