Filth, fiilth, filth

2010-01-06 00:00

RESIDENTS have inundated council with complaints about the filthy state of the city, forcing acting mayor Mervyn Dirks to cut his leave short.

Dirks, who is technically on recess until the 18th, told The Witness he felt compelled to shorten his holiday after being bombarded with telephone complaints from locals demanding to know why the municipality was allowing the city to decay.

In an effort to address the situation, Dirks arranged a meeting with senior municipal managers, but they told him they were unable to attend as they were busy accompanying a delegation on a tour to Harry Gwala stadium. “How are they going to explain the filth? Which route are they going to take? The city is completely overgrown,” said Dirks.

Instead, they sent horticulture manager Sergie Naidu and acting district horticulturalist for the northern areas Shassan Amoo to represent them during the meeting.

During the meeting, Dirks told Naidu and Amoo that councillors were frustrated that their attempts to get management to address the poorly maintained city were falling on deaf ears.

“The managers don’t listen to the councillors who are trying their level best to get the issue sorted out. They asked me to intervene because residents are blaming them, but it’s the managers who should be ensuring that these things are attended to,” he said.

Dirks said the community services department is being reactive instead of proactive and “we cannot continue like this”.

He said that during the festive period management was fully aware that the city received a lot of rain, so it was the managers’ job to ensure a proper programme was put in place so that the city was kept clean and tidy.

The programme should then have been made available to the media and ward councillors so residents could be informed because at the moment, ratepayers are in the dark and the situation puts the city in a bad light, said Dirks.

“When I drive through the city I feel embarrassed to be the deputy mayor. Workers must work and managers must manage,” said Dirks.

Amoo said there is a programme in place, but that continuous rain means that the grass is growing faster than usual so the department isfalling behind.

Dirks said using rain as an excuse is not good enough.

“When it rains you can cut grass with petrol grass cutters that don’t need electricity. I’m really upset. I want this mess to be sorted out,” he said.

Naidu said rain was not the only contributing factor. There was a shortage of staff and equipment, and the overall lack of resources resulted in backlogs. He said the lack of an overtime budget is also a problem as limited resources at their disposal mean that not all areas could be attended to during normal working hours.

Dirks said the department should inform councillors and residents about these issues because if they don’t, they will have no idea what is going on.

“Councillors are under extreme pressure. They feel management pays no attention to them and disrespects them by saying they cannot be dictated to. If we fail as officials and politicians, then we are not worthy to run this city,” said Dirks.

Ratepayers want refuse to be collected, streets to be swept and verges to be maintained, so telling them that there is lack of resources when their rates keep increasing is not acceptable, he said.

Councillor Babu Baijoo said that in his area, people have resorted to hiring people to keep municipal property clean because they are tired of the filth.

He said officials are failing to align their given budgets with a workable plan and his numerous attempts to get answers from the deputy municipal manager for community services, Zwe Hulane, have been unsuccessful.

Later yesterday afternoon, Dirks told The Witness he had just had a successful meeting with municipal manager Rob Haswell and parks and recreation manager Steven Naick.

He said Haswell resolved to hire 150 temporary workers to assist the staff of 300 so they can clean the city. An additional 20 to 40 tractors will be hired immediately and four grass-cutting and bush-cutting contractors will be approved today so the clean-up operation can get under way with immediate effect.

“We’ll start [today] cleaning up area by area. Within 30 days the city should be in a better condition.

“If I didn’t intervene nothing would have been done,” said Dirks.

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