"The attempted 'hijacking' of the civic body has actually energised the community in a way that we haven't seen for years."
On Tuesday night, Observatory residents voted unanimously to nullify the controversial election that put three property developers into top positions in the Observatory Civic Association last month. The three are Theo Kruger, Ebrahim Abader and Tertius van Zyl.
The packed meeting saw hundreds of residents queue up for registration outside the Observatory Community Centre. Registration for new OCA members was cut off 35 minutes past the meeting's scheduled starting time at about 200 members, a record turnout.
Olivia Andrews, chairperson of the OCA business forum, gave residents a detailed recap of suspicious activity noticed on the night and irregularities found on the voter's roll including:
Abader allegedly paid the joining fees for several new members, all of whom voted together for certain candidates.
This bloc of new members was ushered back in by Abader after they had mistakenly left the venue thinking the voting had concluded.
The same bloc of members left immediately once the voting actually concluded despite other items on the meeting's agenda.
There were discrepancies on the sign-up sheets of 18 of members (30% of the vote). For example, a vacant building owned by Theo Kruger was listed as a home address and multiple people signed up to vote on behalf of the same business.
Andrews also raised a conflict of interest. One of the OCA's functions is to monitor property development in Observatory, but there are ongoing developments owned by Kruger, Abader and van Zyl.
Kruger, van Zyl and Abader, who were present at the meeting, were given the chance to answer to these charges.
Abader said that the bloc of new members voting for them was a result of a marketing campaign they had run in advance of the election. "We asked people in Observatory to vote for us. So people on the day came out and they voted for us."
Residents in the hall interjected saying that they had not heard of any such marketing campaign.
Van Zyl said that Andrews's account was biased and put the three in "a very bad perspective" before they could make their case. He further said that the newly-elected committee had not had a chance to prove themselves,
Kruger denied accusations that his properties were being used as a home/business address by multiple new voters. He said that the OCA's constitution allowed for all people who own or occupy property or a businesses in Observatory to vote.
Audience members were then invited to put forward proposals for a course of action. After two proposals and several amendments, the final proposal put to a vote was as follows
The election held on 31 October is rendered null and void.
The previous OCA management committee will continue to hold their posts until a new election is held.
The new election must be called within two months of this meeting.
The final tally was 200 votes in favour with no votes against and no abstentions.
Kruger refused to comment on the meeting, while Abader and van Zyl left before GroundUp could get comment from them.
Murray Hunter, an Observatory resident had this to say about the meeting: "Last night was a great result for Obs. The attempted 'hijacking' of the civic body has actually energised the community in a way that we haven't seen for years. But what's really encouraging is that many people have been talking, on the sidelines of the meeting and on social media forums, about what kind of development we do want in this neighbourhood - development which is inclusive and progressive. It feels like a new space is opening up in Obs's civic life."