‘The city is falling apart’

2008-10-16 00:00

The city is falling apart.

This was the general view of Msunduzi Executive Committee members about the city’s infrastructure during their sitting yesterday.

Exco members said the dilapidated state of the infrastructure includes repeated water pipe bursts and electricity faults in most parts of the city, potholes, poorly maintained pavements, trenches dug up and left open for months, regular street light outages and poor reinstatement of the tar on roads dug up by private contractors employed by the municipality.

The matter came up after an item on the maintenance programme by the construction and re-construction sub-unit was stood down because it had not been through the finance committee.

Exco was told that the infrastructure, facilities and services department has a three-month backlog of road reinstatements after work done by contractors for water and electricity connections.

The most vocal about the infrastructure woes was Deputy Mayor Mervyn Dirks, who chairs the infrastructure, services and facilities committee. He said the municipality has failed to maintain its infrastructure to the point where he avoids going to certain places for fear of being questioned about when the infrastructure will be repaired.

There are roads where potholes have remained unrepaired for years and he does not know what to tell people when they confront him. He said he can’t tell people that they are being worked on when nothing is being done. Dirks said they have raised the matter with officials many times.

Pops Chetty (ANC) said the officials need to be invited on the door-to-door vote-canvassing trips ahead of the elections to explain to residents about the problems facing the city’s infrastructure.

Themba Zungu (ANC) said townships are hardest hit by lack of maintenance. “Other people within council are not taking their jobs seriously. Let’s be true to our word, if we say we’ll fix the problems, let’s fix it properly,” said Zungu.

Gerrit Meyer of the ANC said the matter is a question of competence by the repairers, who repair some of the roads and leave others unfixed.

Bill Lambert (DA) agreed that the infrastructure is falling apart and there has been an outcry from residents. He said the council needs to put things right.

However, Mayor Zanele Hlatshwayo said she does not believe the infrastructure is so bad. “I don’t believe it is falling apart. We just need to tighten our maintenance,” she said.

Deputy municipal manager for infrastructure, facilities and services, Phil Mashoko, confirmed that the council is faced with challenges of maintaining its infrastructure. Although they have a three-month backlog on road reinstatements and other infrastructure-related challenges, things in the city are not falling apart, he said.

The problem is attributed to a lack of experienced technicians and engineers following an exodus of staff that shrunk the unit dealing with maintenance.

The backlog of road reinstatements, he said, is because contractors who dig up the roads are not adequately monitored and then do not reinstate the surfaces.

“We have given tenders to 22 contractors to start the process of clearing the backlog. Most of it will be cleared within four weeks. We apologise to the public for any inconvenience caused. We assure the public that we are working on it,” he said.

thandom@witness.co.za

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