‘LISTEN TO US!’

2014-06-20 00:00

THE Msunduzi Municipality does not listen to its residents and does not care what they think.

That was the collective view of leaders in the city, including ratepayers and councillors, speaking on how the municipality is run and its ­response — or lack thereof — to the challenges raised by residents.

Babs Sithapersad of Msunduzi Ratepayers’ Association said while they respect the council as the elected leadership in charge of running the city, they are unhappy with how the city is being run.

Having returned from a recent trip to Pretoria and Soweto, he said he was impressed by the cleanliness there.

“But when you come to Pietermaritzburg, the first thing that hits you is the filth … We are paying rates and all the council has to do is to keep the streets clean.”

He said it was clear that the city leadership does not care what residents want or think.

“They have their own programmes. I do not know what they are but it is very clear that they do not care about what people of the city think.”

He said some of the pain residents feel over the poor service delivery issues is self inflicted. “You know what they say in politics, you get what you deserve, and it could be that we are getting what we deserve, because we elected some of these people.”

He said the forum had tried to engage with the municipality to help where it can, but nothing ever came of it. “It [suggestions] just goes in one ear and then comes out the other … We submitted almost a 200-page memorandum but the response has been very minimal,” he said.

“We have come up with suggestions on cleaning the streets, illegal street traders; we have a cemetery that is actually one of the worst in the world and that is quite frightening. There was a time when people had to take bodies to Durban to be cremated,” he said.

Chairperson of the Scottsville Residents’ and Ratepayers’ Association (SRRA), Peter Green, said besides the many ongoing issues that need attention, from the litter in the streets to blatant prostitution, repairing street lights, potholes, damage of appliances through electricity surges (due to theft from unsecured sub-stations) and lack of planning control with respect to illegal businesses including creches, digs, B&Bs, tuckshops, street traders, trucking and motor ­repairs, there are some areas that really need ­focused attention.

He said the municipality’s call centre, and the response by the municipality to reports by residents of things that need attention need to be addressed by the municipal manager and his deputies.

“We have a huge frustration when we try to get through to the call centre and have to follow up many times to get any response,” said Green.

He said they have asked for a meeting to ­address the unbridled increase of illegal digs and B&Bs to help find a better way to respond the need for student accommodation. Green said the penalties for operating illegal businesses are not being applied and so the infringements are multiplying. “The enforcement of the traffic by- laws is sorely lacking. While new wardens are seen on duty at key intersections in the CBD in peak traffic hours, the roads and pavements are continually being damaged by trucks parking on the pavement, entering the city and parking illegally thus blocking and endangering other motorists using the roads,” said Green.

He said the public meetings called, usually with disrespectfully short notice, are mostly a farce as the public input has very little impact on the pre-prepared IDP and budget. “This must be changed if the municipality is to have any credibility,” he said.

Green added residents are becoming so increasingly angry with the non-response to the above issues, that there is a growing sentiment to take the law into their own hands and a march to the city hall is imminent.

Msunduzi Action Forum convenor Dev Naidoo said they declared a dispute with the municipality regarding the tariff charges three months ago because from the outset they did not trust that the municipality would follow the directive of the National Energy Regulator of SA (Nersa) to reverse the charges.

“Until they have the full details of what the municipality will do, the dispute stands,” he said.

Naidoo said they sent a petition to Msunduzi calling for a moratorium to be placed on all electricity tariff increases until the Nersa directive is duly considered and implemented.

He said they were also calling for the removal of the long-despised MCB or net ampere charges and that no retrospective charges be implemented.

Zwartkop Ratepayers’ and Residents’ Association chairperson Trish Collocott said of the many issues they had reported to council, nothing had been done. “We have asked for speed humps to be put on Morcom Road but nothing had been done about it and have also asked for police visibility because there is a lot of lawless driving happening.”

Collocot also complained about the removal of waste at the Zwartkop Road garden refuse skip, which was overflowing as a result of people dumping their household refuse waste and was seldom cleared by council.

She complained that the community of Peace Valley 3 near Napierville were part of the cityl but were not receiving any services from the municipality. “They have no roads, running water, electricity and sewerage and their situation has been like this for years without improvement.”

BUSINESS

PIETERMARITZBURG Chamber of Business CEO Melanie Veness stressed the importance of a retention strategy.

“Business will operate where conditions are favourable, and we need to ensure that conditions are favourable for existing businesses, before we even look at attracting new ones.”

She said it is sometimes easier to enjoy economic growth through the expansion of existing business than through attracting new investment. “We need to value the investment that existing business has made in our city, and continues to make, despite the current challenges,” she said, adding there are three major things that “we need to address if we wish to increase our attractiveness to both existing and potential investors”.

“We are a capital city and we need to look like a capital city. There should be a government precinct in the centre of Pietermaritzburg with impressive buildings that set the tone for the rest of our city. We should not tolerate shoddy facades and buildings and filth and litter; this reflects badly on all of us and erodes business confidence,” said Veness.

She added that the city’s infrastructure — electricity, water and sanitation — also needs to be fixed.

THE MAYOR RESPONDS

MSUNDUZI Municipality Mayor Chris Ndlela said it was not true that they were not listening to the public because there were a number of interventions they had taken to show they were listening to the residents.

“We had a problem of the Woodhouse low-level bridge near Sobantu that had residents complaining about the number of accidents occurring there; we closed it,” he said.

Ndlela said that while there are complaints about the dirty city, they enlisted the services of Sakhumnotho and Expanded Public Works programme to clean it. “We have also a number of projects we have introduced to rehabilitate our infrastructure and we are even electrifying the informal settlements to ensure that residents that had been affected by illegal connections were no longer affected.”

Ndlela added keeping the city clean was not the sole responsibility of the council but involved all the citizens of the city. “If you can drive during the night you will see that our employees are cleaning but the problem is during the day when people flock into our city, so the filth in our town is due to the human element and if we can all work together we would have a vibrant city that we can all be proud of,” said Ndlela.

OPPOSITION PARTIES

IFP LEADER in the council Dolo Zondi said there was a huge gap between the council and the residents.

“The perfect examples are the councillors; you can go to any ward and ask the communities there if they know who their councillors are. The councillor no longer goes out and holds meetings with the community and explains to them what is happening in the municipality, something that is very important.”

He said, “The previous ANC leadership had the plan to go out there and meet with the community, something that I applaud them for, but the current leadership does not have any such plan.

“The people that I have spoken with, not just IFP members but the ANC as well, just do not feel the municipality cares about them and their concerns.”

Rodger Ashe, the DA chief whip, said while in some instances the municipality does seem to listen to the ratepayers, in most cases it doesn’t.

He said the public should make use of their ward committee meetings and attend those in bigger numbers so the municipality would be forced to listen to the residents’ concerns. “It is a two-way street.”

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