Plan to reclaim dirty park

2014-07-10 00:00

VICTORIA Road businesses want to reclaim and upgrade the open space at the corner of Victoria and Roberts roads — currently the hangout for vagrants, and judging by the cable strips lying around — cable thieves as well.

The space is also used as an open air toilet, despite the public toilets nearby.

The businesses don’t want a cent from the municipality, just permission to go ahead with a plan to fence off the electricity sub-station in the area and develop a playground in front possibly with swings and roundabouts for children.

Their gesture is not purely philanthropic; they want to protect the R13 million transformer in the burnt out and exposed sub-station on the property.

Businesswoman Ann Rennie said the substation supplies half the CBD with power and if it shuts down, it would be disastrous for businesses.

Ian Wilson was concerned that despite a new sub-station being built and ready since November, the equipment has not been moved to the new building. He pointed out what he described as shoddy workmanship on the new building and showed that it had just been built but was already being stripped of its guttering and pipes.

He led the way to the old electricity sub-station on the plot and revealed an even bigger shock. The sub-station that houses a 11 000-volt transformer has no doors on it. The building appears to be used by vagrants and behind the building the ground is strewn with the plastic coverings of stripped cables.

Wilson said they also want to revamp the park because it had become the hangout for petty criminals. The businesses in the vicinity get robbed and in the past they have caught some of the vagrants with stolen bicycles, step ladders, hose pipes and other household goods from properties in the Roberts Road area.

The Maritzburg West Bowling Club has had its ashtrays, benches and metal markers for the bowling green stolen. The club’s Arthur Hatton said they have a major tournament coming up this weekend and they have had to bolt the benches to the ground.

He said even more of a threat were the fires being lit day and night in different parts of the park. He said there was constant concern that these could be left unattended and get out of hand and spread to other properties. There was the constant smell of the plastic stripped off the cables being burnt. “When we try to warn them about the fires we get bricks thrown at us,” he said.

Hatton was aware of businesses in the area that helped keep the park clean.

Wilson said the problem he had experienced was not knowing among the officials who the movers and shakers were who could get things going.

In his experience there was a constant referral from one individual to another.

He said they had been trying to engage with somebody about the dire state of the sub-station and had tried to find out who to approach about plans for the parks, but hadn’t had much luck so far.

He proposed that the municipality have a city overseer or ombudsman who could be contacted to tell them the right people to speak to. He described the municipality as a massive spider web.

“We need somebody to direct us to the right people to speak to when we have a problem, or a plan or a proposal.”

Wilson, Rennie and the other businesses in the area agree that Pietermaritzburg is their city and they want to make it work — starting with the park in their neighbourhood.

Manager in the municipal manager’s office Madeleine Plaatjies-Jackson said the best person for the group to talk to was the deputy municipal manager for Community Services, Boniwe Zulu.

Plaatjies-Jackson said Community Services was working on city-wide plans for parks and open spaces as well as the clean-up.

Questions were also sent to the municipality on the issue of the sub-station. Spokesperson Thobeka Mafumbatha said she would investigate and get back to the newspaper.


Support for The Witness challenge to clean up the city has been pouring in from suburbs around the city.

The clean-up challenge takes off next Friday, on Mandela Day, when staff at The Witness will take to the streets of Willowton, our neighbourhood in the city, and spend 67 minutes cleaning it.

Remember, this is the challenge thrown down by President Jacob Zuma to the citizens of South Africa to make this year’s Mandela Day about cleaning up the country.

The Witness challenges residents, neighbourhoods, businesses to join in the clean-up campaign and give 67 minutes of their time on Mandela Day. Let us know about your own clean-up initiative and we will undertake to publish each and every activity planned so that others can join in.

Msunduzi Municipality and the Pietermaritzburg Chamber of Business support the campaign.

The municipality has its own activities and programmes planned and details on these will be published shortly.

Send details of your clean-up activities to or

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