Swimming pool scandal

2009-03-16 00:00

This summer ratepayers have had to endure service delivery at its worst at the city’s public swimming pools. The 2008-2009 season began with Msunduzi Municipality’s parks and recreation department failing to provide winter facilities yet again. Due to persistent heater problems, water conditions at the Buchanan Street Swimming Pool were unsuitable for winter swimming.

September 1, 2008, the official opening of our public swimming facilities for the summer season, was again marred, this time by the failure of some of these facilities to open on time, despite having the four months of winter to prepare.

Children from the Eastwood area were deprived of enjoying themselves at the Eastwood Swimming Pool because this facility only opened after the September school holidays.

And there was the safety issue. Almost every day children were treated for cuts at the Olympic Pool in Northdale due to broken tiles in the pool, while the roof support in the men’s change room remains dangerously unstable, despite complaints made two seasons ago. Will this issue only be addressed when this large structure collapses on children?

During the course of this season, some pools were unavailable due to unsuitable water conditions, while too few lifeguards compromised the safety of our children.

Then we had the fiasco at the Woodlands Pool, where a lifeguard with his leg in plaster was on duty alone. The issue was raised at a sports development forum meeting at the Newholmes Hotel in November last year, but Thomas Roux (the official in charge on the city’s swimming pools) was unable to give an answer.

At Alexandra Swimming Pool, a teenager drowned on December 20. That day there was only one lifeguard on duty and swimmers were quoted as saying the water was too murky to see anything on the bottom.

The situation at the city’s pools on a Saturday is a time bomb waiting to go off because there is nobody going around anymore checking up on all the relief lifeguards and seeing if they need help.

At Olympic Pool problems with seating, parking, racing lanes and blocked and filthy toilets have to date not been addressed, and remain an inconvenience and a health risk to patrons at this pool.

At Olympic and Alex swimming pools there are also no kiosks, apparently due to administrative delays.

The opening and closing times of these facilities leave much to be desired. Where facilities normally close at 6.20 pm, patrons were subjected to the inconvenience of a 5.15 pm closure. We have facilities that operate with their gates closed, despite having a 24-hour security presence. The holiday-maker who might, from a distance, see the gates of a facility closed, wouldn’t even bother to investigate. Truly, it’s absurd that a public facility — a swimming pool in a residential area — operates in this manner.

Our swimming pools, compared with other provinces, are the most expensive and have the most unsuitable bathing hours. Two pools operate for 12 hours of the day, while the balance operate for six hours of the day.

At the Alexandra Swimming Pool, the 6.20 am opening was implemented during the apartheid era, when that facility was exclusively a “whites only” pool. These hours suited that group of people during that period. Today this facility is patronised 99% of the time by people of colour, thus the 6.20 am to 6.20 pm time slot is unsuitable for this group. An opening time of 8 am to 8 pm would be most suitable for both the Olympic and the Alexandra swimming pools, while those in the residential areas need to remain open for 12 hours a day.

Opening times need to be reviewed.

Who is Anwar Rawat?

What do you do?

I used to be a lifeguard at the municipal pool in Berg Street. I was there for 22 years. I was boarded six years ago because of a degenerative disease.

Why are you so interested in swimming pools?

I’ve been swimming all my life and I still swim a kilometre every day at the Olympic Swimming Pool in Northdale because it helps with my illness. It strengthens my back and makes me more comfortable.

I have to speak up about what’s wrong because I swim in Olympic Pool and I coach there. I expect the pool to be clean.

What do you think is the problem with the city’s pools?

It’s staffing. The people who are running the pools now have limited knowledge. Rodger Ashe, who ran pools before the current administration, did it very efficiently and the pools were beautifully maintained. He was a former lifeguard and he knew what he was doing. But the commitment isn’t there now.

• Anwar Rawat declined to have his photograph taken as he is a devout Muslim.

This article was sent to Msunduzi Municipality for comment on February 11, but there was no response.

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