Msunduzi is ‘killing the goose’

2011-04-26 00:00

THE Pietermaritzburg fresh produce market building in Mkondeni is falling to ruin, neglected by its landlord, the Msunduzi Municipality, despite the fact that the council receives almost R1,2 million monthly for the use of the building from agents selling produce on behalf of farmers.

The market building is owned and maintained by the municipality. The agents pay a five percent commission on their turnover to the municipality, as well as fees for rent and use of the facilities, such as fruit ripening rooms and coldrooms.

But, say dissatisfied agents, the money they pay the municipality is not going towards maintaining the building.

Stanley Ward of Natalia Market Agency, which operates at the market, said eight coldrooms are out of order. This means that there is not enough space to store the fresh produce they receive, and it has to be left on the warehouse floor. The produce includes highly perishable items such as bananas

Ward said that if the situation is allowed to continue his bananas might rot for lack of proper storing facilities. Natalia stands to lose over R100 000. “We’re working with fresh produce here!” he exclaimed.

Almost a third of the rooms used to ripen the fruit are not working, said another agent, Mark Elliot of Peter and Co. “The building is in a dreadful state.”

The Witness visited the market and found large metal doors hanging precariously after they had been damaged in a storm — apparently four years ago.

Ward said the agents have to push crates and produce against the doors to stop water entering the warehouse if it rains.

There is also damage to the roof of the loading dock at the back of the building, the grass has been left uncut for months, and a thick layer of dust lies on all the roof beams.

Ward said Natalia hires people to do all its own cleaning.

“There is just a lack of attention and care,” said Simon Poole of G.W. Poole agents. And even though no maintenance is being done, the municipality recently attempted to raise their amount of commission to 7,5% without consulting the agents.

Poole pointing out that the municipality had not followed the correct channels, and the proposed increase in commission had not gone through.

But agents still feel threatened. “They’re killing the goose that lays the golden egg,” said Poole.

The Witness tried to contact municipal spokesperson Brian Zuma for comment, but after two days with several e-mails and messages, he said he had been unable to gather the required information by the time of going to print.

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