Dark streets reflect dysfunctional city

2010-05-11 00:00

THE continued shenanigans at the Msunduzi Municipality leaves most Pietermaritzburg streets in darkness after dusk as its electricity department is without vehicles to maintain streetlights.

Apparently there are thousands of streetlights, which are off in the city and surroundings. Large parts of Langalibalele, Pietermaritz and Church streets have been noticeably dark at night. Oribi, Willowton and Orthmann roads also have unlit sections.

The darkness is the result of a familiar problem — fleet breakdowns. Apparently, many of the trucks with long ladders that are used to maintain street lights have broken down. The municipality is planning to spend R45 000 per month hiring alternative resources to do the job. It is not clear how many months it will take for the municipality’s trucks to be repaired.

Msunduzi Municipality process manager for electricity Maxwell Mthembu admitted that there is a problem with streetlights in the city and surroundings. He also confirmed that the problem lies with his department’s broken-down trucks.

“We are facing a big problem (of dark streets). We don’t have vehicles to maintain the streetlights,” he said.

Msunduzi has been placed under administration as a result of the breakdown of municipal governance. On Friday evening, The Witness counted about 30 lights on Jabu Ndlovu and Langalibalele streets that were not in working order. The Maritzburg Mall from the corner of Church and Chief Albert Luthuli streets was even worse, as the short area up to the Hub store had about 20 lights which were not working.

Mthembu said when community members complain about the situation they blame his department, as if it were the cause of the problem. He said out of three trucks only one is still operating, and it is only used for emergencies.

“The problem is due to the maintenance department. But it is also the fault of the task team, which delays releasing maintenance funds.

“These trucks need to be maintained, their hoists are no longer operating. They have also run out of brake pads and other parts. They have been broken down for about four weeks now,” Mthembu said.

City crime watchdog Safe City general manager Lucas Holtz­hausen said the darkness on the city streets does not affect CCTV cameras, which are run by his organisation in conjunction with the municipality.

“Our cameras have infrared light, which enables them to work properly even in dark.”

However, a city businessman Skhumbuzo Hlela, who runs popular Madlula Bar and Restaurant in Galway Lane off the mall, said the problem “affects the CCTV cameras”. The camera in the lane is surrounded by defective lights.

“I have been to the police on several occasions to request a playback of video footage, and they said nothing was visible because of darkness,” said Hlela.

Hlela said some of his customers were mugged about a month ago, while leaving his business to get to their vehicles. “They lost all their belongings, including cash and banks cards. I had to give them cash for petrol to travel back home to Newcastle.

“The problem has been there for about three years. It has seriously affected my business as many of my customers become targets. I have requested the municipality to do something about it, but nothing has been done,” he said.

Acting municipal manager Thokozani Maseko, who is also acting manager for infrastructure services, said the electricity department needs to make a requisition for funds to hire trailers that have hoists.

 

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