Dismay over City’s empty promises

2017-09-20 14:50
The historic fieldguns guarding the Memorial Arch opposite the City Hall have been in a state of disrepair for years.

The historic fieldguns guarding the Memorial Arch opposite the City Hall have been in a state of disrepair for years. (Ian Carbutt)

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A litany of broken promises by the City has left many business owners in the central business district disillusioned.

They say Msunduzi Municipality has not delivered on numerous plans its officials have made to address the various problems being experienced by the city business fraternity. These problems have recently forced several businesses to close down.

The Witness has seen e-mail correspondence, minutes of meetings and presentations delivered by the City to businesses, some dating back four years, in which Msunduzi laid out stopgap and long-term plans to deal with unruly vagrants, crime and filth. But members of the business fraternity and those who attend stakeholder meetings said last week that plans — if they materialise at all — would at best “come up as some token effort” and disappear.

Among the officials’ plans, detailed in documents, which allegedly never materialised were:

In July, an official in the City’s traffic and security division, Devan Devar, said in an e-mail his department would “conduct checks” in the Prince George Street area to address complaints of taxis being parked and washed outside shops, limiting space for parking.

In a November 2016 e-mail, manager for environmental health Clive Anthony said the City could “address in terms of recent discussions” complaints about rats invading businesses because of poor hygiene on Prince George Street.

In a March 2016 e-mail, a municipal security superintendent, Patrick Radebe, admitted they received “daily complaints” about illegal vendors in the CBD and said his unit would conduct “regular checks”.

In 2014, now suspended manager of the office of the municipal manager Madeleine Jackson-Plaatjies detailed in an e-mail a plan the City was developing to deal with the “cleanliness” of the CBD.

The status of these plans and why they were allegedly not realised is unclear, as City spokesperson Thobeka Mafumbatha did not answer detailed questions sent last Thursday.

Mafumbatha on Tuesday, however, referred The Witness to a media statement that said the City was in the process of implementing an initiative with the private sector to make the city cleaner and safer. The statement did not go into detail.

City situation ‘could force more businesses to close’

Radebe and Devar referred The Witness back to the City’s communications department. Anthony could not be reached on Tuesday, and did not respond to an e-mail query.

Business owners said last week that years of efforts to cajole the City’s officials to take action have failed. They said it was “virtually impossible” to meet officials face to face.

Their problems have come to a head recently, with The Witness reporting last month on four major retailers who pulled out of the CBD because of vagrants and crime.

Business owners voiced their fears that more businesses could follow suit at an August meeting held by the Msunduzi Economic Development Agency (Meda), which head of Community Cafety at the City Boniwe Zulu had attended.

According to the minutes, a business owner told the room that “the problem … of crime, increase of littering, loitering [of vagrants and public] urinating” led to the closure of ice cream shop Kulfi on Garfield Street.

He said: “If this matter is not addressed, more businesses will be forced to close and this could have serious economic repercussions for the city.”

Zulu revealed at the meeting that the City had tried to house vagrants at a property on Havelock Road, but “some homeless people don’t want to be structured”.

She said the City was trying to get funding to fix public toilets to curb public urination.

Zulu said on Tuesday she would brief The Witness on “the programme going forward” at a later date.

Meda chairperson Kantha Naidoo declined to comment beyond questioning how The Witness got the minutes to that meeting.

A property owner on Garfield Street said his workers feared going to work because of the “increase in crime” over the last 18 months.

The owner, who asked to remain unnamed out of fear of reprisals, said: “Customers don’t want to come here. It’s unsafe.”

He added: “Shop owners are ratepayers. They are paying for services and should expect the council to maintain that area. Right now, it is not encouraging for people to invest in business.”

Another business owner said: “We’ve been trying since 2013 to get things changed. It’s discouraging because we are contributors to the economy and we are not taken seriously.”

A March presentation by the City on the draft Integrated Development Plan (IDP) conceded that City spending in the CBD was “generally low across all services”.

“Expenditure is not concentrated, making it difficult to make a visible impact,” it said.

The KwaZulu-Natal Department of Co-Operative Governance spokesperson, Lennox Mabaso, said Msunduzi had submitted its IDP in June, and a process plan was submitted the following month.

The plans of the IDP were part of The Witness’ unanswered query sent to the City.


Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  msunduzi municipality

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