Constantia civic group vows to clean up its act

The Constantia Ratepayers’ and Residents’ Association held its annual general meeting at a Constantia restaurant on Monday October 30. Picture: Janice Matthews

The Constantia Ratepayers’ and Residents’ Association was in a poor state when a new executive committee took over in July, but the fight to turn things around has started, says chairman John McPetrie.

The new committee was introduced to about 100 residents who attended the association’s annual general meeting at a Constantia restaurant on Monday October 30.

As he has done previously, Mr McPetrie stressed that the association was determined to stop urban creep in the valley (“Civic vows to tackle Constantia densification” Bulletin, September 21), but he also described how the new committee had found the civic body all but on its knees with just over R4000 in the bank at the end of July.

“The last couple of audits were either incomplete or unsigned. Our membership data was found to be in disarray, our invoicing and receipting in much of the same state and our communication with our members almost non-existent. It was clear that recovering the confidence of membership by re-establishing communication with them on a reliable and regular basis was our number-one priority,” Mr McPetrie said.

Treasurer Mike McBride said that with just over R4000 in its current account and needing R20 000 for the month to cover running costs, the association had appealed to former exco member Yvonne Liebman, to access ring-fenced funds from donors, which were not meant to be used for running costs.

“She agreed that we could transfer R70 000 of previously earned ring-fenced interest and the interest for a year until the end of August 2024. This will total about R94 000. We transferred R15 000 to tide us over and subsequently returned it,” McBride said.

Out of necessity, he said, the association had hiked its membership fee from R650 to R850 with a discount fee of R750 for early payers.

Mr McBride said the association had also hired auditors to sort out several years of unfiled tax returns so that it could register as a public benefit organisation and avoid tax on donations.

Nick Huppert, who is in charge of membership and densification strategy, said that when had joined the exco in July he had found the membership database in a mess with some member’s listed duplicated.

He and his wife, Lynne, had spent two months sorting out the database, removing former members who had not paid subs for years and people who had moved out of the area.

“We literally started with 1500 members. When the real database was 430. So it was a hell of a job. After all of that, we are now left with an accurate database of people who have paid and some who still have to pay.

“We are now able to communicate properly with our members and disseminate information on important land and building developments in Constantia along with exco minutes, monthly, because we are very strong on being completely transparent.”

The association, he added, was planning to store all data on the cloud and modernise communication with its members.

Ben Wren said he had joined the exco after getting insufficient help from the association with a neighbour who had put a cell mast on his rooftop without planning or neighbours’ consent.

Mr Wren, who is in charge of marking and communications, said the association’s website would be revamped before the end of the year, and residents could now expect to receive regular information about meetings and planning applications.

He also urged residents to join the association’s Facebook page for updates.

All members would also start getting a monthly newsletter in their email inboxes from December, he said.

Changes to the association’s constitution, adopted through a vote at the meeting, mean exco meetings will now be advertised two weeks in advance and all members may now attend in an observer capacity.

Gordon Chunnett, a current exco member who has been involved with the association since 2015, said the new committee had great ambitions and was very hard working, but some of the comments made at the AGM were disrespectful and showed ignorance of why particular decisions had been made in the past.

“In most situations, it is seldom a clear cut and dry answer on these things. There is always some measure of complication, to understand the circumstances on why particular decisions were made.”

Funds running low was a perennial, cyclical issue and it had happened almost every year prior to invoicing the new year’s subs, he said.

“When renewal notices go out at a certain time of the year, you get a flood of money coming in at that stage. Then it dries up, and towards the end of the financial year, you actually battle.”