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Region B IDP encounters a disgrace

News editor Emily Wellman Bain writes:

When I arrived at the Danie van Zyl Recreation Centre, Montclare for the Region B IDP public participation event, I was looking forward to an afternoon of robust engagement.

Region B receives the least budget allocation, meaning many areas are poorly maintained at best but are sinking further into disrepair and despair.

The room was packed with concerned residents who were given bottled water from the Joburg City Theater in anticipation of the two-hour session. The stage groaned under the weight of city officials who had feasted on a buffet of high-quality food and drinks in the adjacent hall.

The ‘world-class African city’ seemed to be showing off until you looked a little closer.

Read more: The mayor meets angry residents from Region B

The women’s toilets, and I assume other bathrooms as well, had no running water for the crowds, and the noise from the microphones made participation impossible as the contributions could barely be heard – let alone understood.

At the back of the room, and out of sight of most, several sparkling BMWs and off-road vehicles were ready to take the ‘important’ people to undoubtedly greener pastures after the session.

Due to poor audio, the single IDP consultation session for Region B was a sham.

Community members could not be properly heard, and neither could the officials. The rubber-stamping exercise should have been halted until technicians repaired the microphones and speakers at best, or re-planned them altogether.

Those who tried to participate online had the same audio feed, making their participation virtually meaningless.

Because the event took place on a work day, people with full-time jobs could not attend in person. These are taxpayers who contribute to the city’s coffers, yet were denied the opportunity to participate in what should be a critically important process that will shape the region for the foreseeable future.

Read more: Critical service providers from Region B are ready to meet with the community

At some point in the afternoon a lady unexpectedly came up to me taking notes for the city. I sat on the side, almost at the front.

The sound was so bad that she asked me if she could look at my notes to try to better capture the input. I was stunned – at least it reinforced that I wasn’t the only one following the procedure.

MMCs and other officials on the stage did not seem concerned about the conduct of the session as they spent much of the time talking to each other or entertaining themselves on their mobile phones.

Ninety minutes into the session I left.

I had long since seen the point of sitting and watching the events unfold with loud speakers spouting inaudible cries from the community. It seemed that others were also present as they chatted with each other, many no longer trying to listen to their opinions.

In terms of public participation, this was anything but.

As I drove away, I couldn’t help but wonder if it was just plain incompetence, as is so often the case with city bodies, or a deliberate tactic.

Related article: Councilors in Region B and JRA have different opinions when it comes to service delivery