Open manhole

2013-03-04 00:00

A VISITOR to Pietermaritzburg was injured when he fell into an open manhole in Greyling Street on Friday.

Tom Beatson of Wartburg was fortunate that all he sustained was an injury to his foot.

In Durban, a woman, Nonsikelelo Tenza (53) died last Friday, February 22, after falling into an open manhole that was hidden by overgrown grass in the Westville area. The Sunday Tribune reported that a schoolboy was injured in the same week and in the same suburb when a broken manhole cover caused him to fall.

The Witness met a shaken Beatson, still wearing his muddied clothes as he sat waiting for his vehicle at a glass repair centre. He was frustrated that his day in the city had been a complete waste. He had to cancel a number of appointments as his next stop had to be with a doctor to check on his foot and find out whether he would be able to drive back to Wartburg. His frustration was compounded by the fact that he battled to get through to the Msunduzi Municipality to report the incident and the open manhole. Beatson said he would get through to the switchboard, but when they put him through to the legal department, the phone rang and cut off.

Beatson arrived in the city early in the morning, dropped off his vehicle at Glasfit and went across the road to the Parklane Spar for breakfast. He then walked down Greyling Street as he had to call at other businesses.

“I was walking along the street looking for an address and the next minute I found myself halfway down a manhole,” said Beatson, who described the incident as a shocking and frightening experience.

He added that perhaps regular passers-by were aware of the gaping hole and avoided it, but for visitors it was a dangerous trap.

He said if left uncovered, another unsuspecting passers-by may have an even more damaging accident. He urged Msunduzi Municipality to replace the cast iron manhole covers that are stolen and sold to scrap metal dealers with concrete covers.

Contacted by The Witness yesterday, Beatson was still fuming over the incident. He had a slow and painful drive back home to Wartburg. He added that he was not going to leave the situation unchallenged and would be seeing his lawyer to lay a damages claim against the municipality.

Msunduzi spokesperson Brian Zuma apologised for the incident, saying that it was not good that a visitor who was spending time and money in the city had to be injured in such a manner. Zuma said the theft of manhole covers was a challenge that the municipality faced and that they were currently looking at alternative material to replace the cast iron covers and had already started making concrete covers for manholes. “The aim is to look for a lasting solution to the problem,” Zuma said.

In the meantime he urged pedestrians to be careful when walking.

Zuma added that Beatson can lay a claim against the municipality. He would need to send a detailed report on the incident to the Municipal manager or the city’s legal department, who will look into the matter. The report can be dropped off at the City Hall or a registered letter can be sent to: The Legal Department, Msunduzi Municipality, Private Bag X321, Pietermaritzburg, 3200. Missing manhole covers can be reported to the call centre by phoning 0800 001868.

According to the Sunday Tribune, Tenza’s death is being investigated by the eThekwini Municipality and the manhole cover has been replaced.

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