The Muizenberg Improvement District’s annual general meeting was thrown into disarray when the entire board quit at once.
Board director Marion Wagner made the shock announcement during the meeting at the Muizenberg Bowling Club on Wednesday November 7. She said that after careful consideration, and despite it being the best board she had served on, and one that had achieved much the board was unanimously stepping down.
A flurry of questions followed along with protestations from the floor.
Ms Wagner said the work the board did was voluntary and the directors were at their wits’ end because of what they called harassment by a resident, whom they said had been demanding of them things which were not within the ambit of their work on the MID.
She claimed the resident had swamped the board with threatining letters making unreasonable demands.
She said the directors had been threatened with legal action, and the negativity and lack of protection from the City had influenced their decision to quit.
Ms Wagner read individual board directors’ resignation letters aloud to the gathering in an attempt to explain the decisions. In these letters, the resident was named as property developer Claudia Braude, who was at the meeting.
Ms Wagner added that the decision to quit was taken individually by each member when they learned Ms Braude intended to nominate herself onto the board.
However Ms Braude told the meeting she had never been rude, had never raised her voice, and that it was both unfortunate and defamatory that her persistence and passion for the community had been interpreted as harassment.
She said she had a democratic right, and as a member of the MID, a civil duty, to take her membership of the MID seriously and to ask questions about the budget and the workings of the board.
When speaking to the False Bay Echo about the incident on Tuesday November 13, Ms Braude described the AGM meeting as hostile towards her, pointing out that two calls had been made for legal action to be taken against her, one in the form of an interdict and one suggesting she be sued for harassment.
To date, no legal action has been taken on either side.
Ms Braude expressed dismay at being named at the public meeting and said the accusations were absurd and that she only wanted to uplift Muizenberg, an area she was resident in and had significantly invested in.
The board directors also said that they felt unsupported by their ward councillor, Aimee Kuhl, for attending so few of their meetings.
After the announcement, a large number of MID members left, breaking the quorum, and the meeting had to be adjourned.
A new meeting has yet to be organised so that a quorum can reconvene, accept the tendered resignations, and then vote for a new board. MID manager Chevone Petersen said because of that, four members of the exiting board had chosen to stay on as directors of the MID until the next meeting, at which time the matter would be examined again.
The existing directors until then are Marion Wagner, Wayne Turner, Megan Cross and Johan Lotter.
Ms Khul said it saddened her to see that community members, business owners and volunteers – whom she knew all cared for Muizenberg – had reached this point.
“As the ward councillor, I need to stay neutral and represent everyone’s interests. All concerned parties had several conversations and meetings with me prior to the AGM,” she said.
“It is important for me to state that all sides felt victimised by the respective other groups and brought this to my attention. The members can at any point address questions in writing or in person to the exco and the MID manager.”
The City, she said, had not and could not offer protection to the MID board as the improvement district was a registered non-profit company and, as such, was subject to the Companies Act.
“City officials oversee the proceedings of the AGM to ensure that correct processes are followed according to the regulations of the City, and my role of political oversight is to monitor that City officials as well as the other role-players adhere to the outlined rules,” she said.
Ms Kuhl said it was very unfortunate that a special caucus had been called by the mayor for the evening of the MID AGM as she had planned to be at the meeting.
“Unfortunately, both Alderman (Felicity) Purchase, who is the alternate political representative for Ward 64 improvement districts, and myself had to prioritise attending the mentioned caucus as it supersedes our other work obligations,” she said.
She said she had explained that in writing to the MID chair and to the respective officials.
“I understand that this was frustrating to the community,” she said.
With regards to her attendance at exco meetings, she said that the nature of volunteer organisations meant that meetings mostly took place in the evenings and so often overlapped.
“I have three resident associations, three improvement districts and numerous other groups, which I need to regularly attend. I do my best to alternate between the different obligations,” she said.