Community Crusader: Marina Constas, RAG Chairperson

Marina Constas, Bedfordview RAG Chairperson.

Bedfordview Resident’s Action Group (RAG) Chairperson Marina Constas grew up in Kensington and has lived in Bedfordview for the past 15 years. Constas, who is a specialist sectional title attorney and a director of a leading law firm, outlines her vision for the Bedfordview community.

Constas holds international mediation qualifications and is a Fellow of the Association of Arbitrators. She co-authored the first consumer-friendly South African book on sectional title property issues and co-founded Community Hours, the award-winning online portal that facilitates community service for teens, schools, active citizens and accredited non-profit organisations.

What inspired you to join RAG?

Ever since I can remember, I have been interested in being involved with community matters. I used to drag my school friends to perform at concerts at the retirement village in Hillbrow, where my grandmother stayed. I served on the Mini City Council when I was in primary school at Leicester Road and was chosen for the position of Junior City Councillor in high school at Jeppe Girls. For 10 years, I served on the Bedfordview Community Policing Forum – five of those as Chairperson. I thoroughly enjoyed working with the police in the security environment – gaining a deeper understanding of systemic problems and meaningful insights around relationship building.

What is your vision as the RAG chairperson?

I envisage a united community under RAG. The unique RAG model requires unpacking. At the top tier, RAG is managed by a board of directors. These individuals are successful Bedfordview residents and business people who are in essence volunteers, unpaid, and who hold the best interests of Bedfordview close to their hearts. The next tier comprises the employed management structure who run the operations of RAG.

The security service provider is outsourced and has a contract with RAG, where performance is monitored by management and directors on a daily basis. Should that security service provider take shortcuts and not comply with standard operating procedures, their contract can be terminated. So, RAG creates a protective buffer between the security service provider and the community. It is an incredibly powerful model, one which is now being emulated in other suburbs. Our aim is to protect our residents against all crime – most especially home invasions and robberies.

Which community initiatives are you involved in that you are most excited about, and why?

RAG recently decided to get involved in cleaning up Bedfordview. Fatigued by constant council ineptitude, we decided to request that our RAG members fund a few unemployed men to sweep streets, cut grass, paint kerbs and clean gutters. We have already gained traction and will continue to grow this initiative, which has been well received by residents.

In addition, we are spearheading an approach to Parliament to demand action against the Ekurhuleni Council. We need to understand where the R150 million per annum in rates and taxes that Ward 20, Bedfordview, contributes to, is going. It is certainly not on maintaining and improving fundamental infrastructure, repairs, maintenance and upliftment of the area. While we are cognisant and accepting of the fact that our area must fund other underprivileged areas, we will not tolerate receiving sub-standard and abysmal service delivery, and being fobbed off and treated as though officials are doing us a favour.

Another exciting RAG development is the formation of a legal team headed by myself and Stefano Migliore, where we will be taking legal action against Council for criminal negligence and dereliction of duty, particularly where potholes and unattended manholes with no covers create life-threatening situations.

What would you like to see improved on in Bedfordview and surrounds?

Apart from the obvious, such as infrastructure and aesthetics, there needs to be a regeneration of community spirit where we all get involved, where apathy is set aside and each person asks themselves where they can make some form of impact.

A cleverer and more well considered approach must be taken by our Town Planning divisions to carefully determine the impact on developments in the suburb. Developments must happen – modernisation and urban densification are the order of the day – but they should not be allowed to take place without the proper infrastructure and services in place as well as hands-on consultation with the greater community.

What is your greatest achievement so far at RAG?

My strength lies in networking, bringing people together and getting things done quickly and efficiently. I do not have time for long and arduous committee meetings. Action is the name of the game with a focus on driving results and gaining traction with projects. My fellow directors and full management complement have the same attitude in ensuring that we work together superbly as an effective structure. Recently bringing Essexwold into our RAG stable is an example of that focused teamwork.

What goals do you have for the community you serve?

Goals must be tangible and achievable. In respect of the security arm of RAG, we would like to see at least 3500 homes and businesses joining our armed response offering in Bedfordview and immediate surrounds. We aspire to have the latest technology in the form of artificial intelligence and to improve the quality of our surveillance and control room operations. In respect of the RAG Better Bedfordview arm, we aim to create a stunning, clean and neat suburb with open green belts and well maintained roads and pathways, which consequently result in protecting and enhancing property values.

What advice do you have for people to get more involved in the community?

Be proactive in assessing the various projects happening in the area and what really resonates with you. Attend a few meetings, chat to people who are already involved and see if you can give time to these projects. Alternatively, resources are key in any community projects, so if you are a fundraiser or donor, your services or donations would be hugely appreciated.

What are your interests and hobbies?

I enjoy walking marathons. Interestingly enough, my partner and I were planning to walk the Great Wall of China marathon in 2020 – it was definitely not meant to be. I would also love to complete the popular Athens marathon – the cornerstone of where marathons began – as well as the New York marathon.

I am extremely excited to be developing and working on a ‘Women in Sectional Title’ website, providing growth and support opportunities for women owners, trustees and managing agents in this space. I enjoy cooking Greek food and entertaining friends and family at home.

What are your favourite places to eat in Bedfordview?

Gone are the days when all of us on the East Rand would have to migrate to the North to find great restaurants. We love eating out in Bedfordview and are lucky to be able to choose from a smorgasbord of both contemporary and classy establishments as well as cosier and more quaint venues. My favourites are the chicken and brown rice salad from Tashas, sushi at The FireRoom, poke bowls from Kaylee’s Eatery, ribs from RocoMamas, prego rolls at Bem Bom, prawn chow mein at Kung Fu Kitchen and souvlaki with Asian slaw at Soul Souvlaki.

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