What impression will we make?

2010-01-13 00:00

THE fact that the Paraguayan soccer team will be based in the midlands is great news. When it was reported in the press that “uMngeni, uMgungundlovu and Msunduzi councils and the KwaZulu-Natal local organising committee have all agreed to provide support in terms of security, logistics, police escorts and facilities”, this news came as a surprise to the uMngeni Democratic Alliance councillors. However, let’s not harp on about such a small issue, at least we councillors found out before the Paraguayan plane landed. It is thanks to Alistair McGlashan of Woodridge, who seems to have done an enormous amount of work, that we will be hosting a football team.

Following the team will be about 6 000 Paraguayan supporters, to whom must be added other supporters who will be in KwaZulu-Natal who are following teams of their choice. The KwaZulu-Natal midlands could be looking at quite a few thousand more international and local visitors than usual.

I should imagine that all the bed and breakfast establishments, lodges and hotels have started their spring cleaning and are polishing the silver in anticipation of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The businesses on the Midlands Meander will be building up stocks to take advantage of the bonanza that is coming their way.

We can rest assured that all the businesses in the midlands will be raising the bar when it comes to service delivery. So we should have no worries in that department. After all, we would like our visitors to go home with glowing reports of their 2010 experience and their time spent in South Africa and the midlands in particular, so that in the future they will recommend us to their friends.

A question that needs to be asked is: what general impression does the uMngeni municipal area make? When visitors drive through Hilton, visit the Howick Falls and decide to have a cup of tea, or drive in their rented car to have lunch or buy handmade shoes or cheese, what will they see, and more importantly, what lasting impression will we have made?

If the soccer supporters had to arrive in uMngeni tomorrow, they would be confronted by masses of illegal signage everywhere and they would be justified in thinking that the official policy is that if it stands still, affix a poster.

If they decide to do the part of the Midlands Meander that involves a drive up the Curry’s Post Road in their rented car, they will be scared witless as they try to negotiate the monstrous potholes that litter the road. They are probably used to driving using both eyes to look at the road ahead. They will not have had a chance to learn that you have to use one eye for the traffic and the other for finding a route round the potholes.

During a genteel drive through Hilton and the suburbs of Howick, verges sporting overgrown vegetation and weeds of more than a metre high might make visitors see a business opportunity because it would appear that we have not yet discovered the brush cutter. They will, however, feel right at home when they see that we appear to be cultivating forests of bugweed, which originally comes from South America.

No visit to Howick is complete without a trip to the Howick Falls, but we should not let visitors peer over the edge of the viewing platform which is akin to looking at a rubbish dump. What about a trip on the Mpophomeni Tourism Experience? Visitors should enjoy their visit as long as they don’t venture off the main road. This is not a security issue, but a simple health problem caused by huge piles of refuse on every street corner.

We want to make a good impression on our visitors, but are we going to be embarrassed by the air of neglect that hangs over our municipality? As residents and ratepayers, we have, of necessity, become used to living like this. What plans does the uMngeni municipal management have to clean, cut and tidy up? It is not as if they are unaware of the problems. Technical meetings have become a gripe session with all councillors continually listing areas of concern.

If the municipal management is not going to do it for us, at least do it for our visitors.

• Pam Passmore is the Democratic Alliance caucus leader in the uMngeni Municipality.

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