City of choice turns city of lawlessness

2014-10-24 00:00

LAWLESS Pietermaritzburg.

We don’t pay our debts and we run over our traffic officers.

This emerged in the Msunduzi Executive (Exco) committee meeting yesterday.

A city of debtors

Mounting municipal debt has doubled since 2012 to R1,8 billion. Councillors were shocked to learn that 55% of this debt is owed by residents. They were even more concerned that the city could go broke again and stare bankruptcy in the face.

Mayor Chris Ndlela asked, “Why have we got so many people who are not respecting the law? These figures suggest a culture of non-payment for services in this town. This is why I always ask myself why is lawlessness extremely high in Pietermaritzburg?”

DA councillor Bill Lambert said he was having sleepless nights and was beside himself with worry at the situation.

“The rising debt could see the city going broke. We’ve been there before and cannot go there again,” he said.

Lambert suggested that the “pitbull team”, started by administrator Johann Mettler be re-introduced to go after businesses that were not paying what they owed.

“We have got to go back to naming and shaming people,” he added.

Both the mayor and Lambert spoke about a businessman who despite having money in the bank, refused to pay the municipality. Lambert said the debtor was heard to say that he can pay, but he was not going to and wanted to see what the municipality would do. “We’ve got to stamp out this type of attitude very quickly,” he added.

Municipal manager Mxolisi Nkosi allayed councillors’ fears by saying the municipality was nowhere near bankruptcy and that various strategies were in place to collect the debt.

He added that a team had been appointed to clean out the database, to remove duplication and irretrievable accounts, helping to establish the exact amount owed. Lambert said this was “a crumb of comfort”.

However, he said he believed much more needed to be done to collect the money owed.

“We heard that with the council rental stock the outstanding rent owed was R227 million and that the municipality only collected R2,6 million of this money. If that is not heading towards bankruptcy, I don’t know what is,” Lambert exclaimed.

Ndlela said the finance portfolio committee recommended that as a start, the top 20 debtors in business, among residents and government departments be pursued for payment.

“We’ve heard frightening stories of the lengths people will go to not to pay. This is why I question the levels of lawlessness,” he said.

Running over

traffic officers

“The community has been crying out for more visible traffic policing in the city. But, when we are visible they are hitting us,” deputy municipal manager for community services Boniwe Zulu told Exco yesterday.

Mayor Ndlela said this was precisely what he had been saying.

“The levels of lawlessness are inevitably high in the space that we operate.”

The Witness learnt that in the past weeks at least four traffic wardens on point duty at busy intersections have either been knocked down, assaulted or robbed.

Msunduzi spokesperson Thobeka Mafumbatha said last week a traffic warden doing point duty in Langalibalele Street was knocked down by a motorist and had to be rushed to hospital. He suffered injuries to his legs.

In early October a female traffic warden also on duty in Boshoff Street was assaulted by a member of the public.

Last month a traffic warden was robbed of his belongings whilst doing point duty at the corner of Masukwana (East) and Jabu Ndlovu (Loop) Streets.

Another traffic warden was knocked over while on duty at the Jabu Ndlovu and Chief Albert Luthuli Street intersections. She suffered both leg and arm injuries.

Mafumbatha said cases have been opened with the police.

“When traffic wardens are not seen by motorists at intersections the matter becomes a serious media query. However, when our officers are harassed and attacked in full view of the public, this inhuman and immoral behaviour goes unnoticed.”

She said they were considering the suspension of the peak hour traffic control service in light of “the brutal and deliberate attacks on our officers”.

Mafumbatha invited law-abiding citizens to report transgressions against the traffic wardens.

She also appealed for more courtesy on the roads and for drivers and pedestrians to heed the traffic rules.

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