Civic groups give voice to wards, but some are silent

Civic associations play an important role in keeping a community’s concerns on the municipality’s radar but several groups in neighbourhoods served by the Athlone News are defunct or foundering.

Civic associations give communities a say on issues that affect them, including municipal planning, policies, budgets and by-laws, says City of Cape Town spokesman, Luthando Tyhalibongo.

But some of the civic groups in neighbourhoods served by the Athlone News are defunct or foundering. The Lansdowne Civic Association is among those that no longer exist.

However, Ward 60 councillor Mark Kleinschmidt, says he would like to see it reinstated and is prepared to hold a workshop to get it off the ground.

“Members of civic associations are representatives of a specific community, and they would also have representation on the ward committees. These are a-political organisations who hold the community’s best interest.”

Currently there are no residents’ associations in Manenberg. The closest one is the Sherwood Park Ratepayers’ and Residents’ Association, whose secretary, Gadija da Costa, said civic groups were particularly useful in large wards where they could help the councillor keep abreast of all that was happening in their constituency.

“Ideally, a ward councillor would know the area and understand the issues affecting residents. Some wards are big, however, and this could result in a councillor not being clued up about all the issues. This is where civic associations play a vital role,” Ms Da Costa said.

“As communities, we are interdependent on one another, and we need to work together to bring about positive change. One of the challenges we face as an association is that it is difficult for us to access community halls in the area. We cannot mobilise the community if we don’t have a venue that is easily accessible.”

Ward 49 councillor Rashid Adams said civics not only helped to tackle issues, they also created opportunities.

“Civic associations make the communication process between the City and residents easier. They know exactly what they want and can inform the City about it. They can also hold us as ward councillors to account to see whether we are fulfilling our mandate.

“More than that, they can also serve on the ward committees, and platforms can be created, such as business or sports forums. It is not just about the interests of the community, but being involved might be a career path for the youth. Serving on a civic association, which meets with ward councillors regularly, will give our youth a better understanding of how local government operates.”

Mr Tyhalibongo added: “Civic and residents’ associations serve to preserve, enhance and plan for the orderly development of their neighbourhood and to promote the general welfare, safety and civic spirit of the community. Through their engagement with the local authority, they are able to keep up with council matters or development which will occur in their neighbourhood. Such organisations also ideally should work closely with community policing forums.”