Safety issues at pools

2013-09-25 00:00

MUNICIPAL pool lifeguards do not have the correct compliance certificates and have not been trained in two years.

This has been revealed by the municipal swimming pool watchdog organisation Concerned Swimming Fraternity (CSF), which has called for municipal pools to be shut down until lifeguards are properly trained and given the proper compliance certificates.

The CSF has also alleged that councillors and Pietermaritzburg residents were hoodwinked by the Msunduzi Municipality when it said the pools would be ready for use at the beginning of the swimming season on September 1.

This forms part of a report to be submitted to the municipal public accounts committee (MPAC), calling for a full investigation into the management and functioning of all municipal pools.

The Witness recently reported that for the first time in at least three years, public swimming pools were expected to be ready to open on time.

However, upon visiting the pools and speaking to members of the CSF, it emerged a lot more still needs to be done before the pools are ready for public use.

The CSF’s Jay Jugwanth demanded the pools be shut down as the lifeguards are currently unqualified and the municipality had a duty to protect the public.

“Again the municipality’s managers have failed to do proper planning between May and July to ensure that when the swimming season starts they were ready,” he said.

Jugwanth said officials had not sent lifeguards for life-saving training in the last two years, which left children vulnerable to drowning because lifeguards were incompetent.

“They need to have a certificate which shows they are competent to do the job. As it stands if a person drowns, the municipality will be held liable for that,” said Jugwanth. He said they were even looking at obtaining an interdict to force the closure of the pools if the municipality did not address their concerns.

Former lifeguard and CSF member Unwar Rawat complained about the poor state of the Olympic swimming pool in Northdale, saying it still did not meet safety requirements.

He said the pool has missing tiles on the edges and the children’s paddling pool was still empty, despite an assurance from council that all pools would be ready on September 1.

The pool’s toilets are blocked, which users have complained about for seven years, said Rawat, adding the drainage at the pool’s showers was also blocked.

He said chlorine is being used in the pool because the chlorinator is not working, and alleged that this could lead to swimmers getting infections, “because HtH is not suitable for use in a 50-metre pool”.

Rawat said the pools previously opened at 7.20 am and senior citizens in the area had used the facility early. Now the pool opens at noon.

Manilal Inderjit, chairperson of the community services portfolio committee, said they noted the community’s concerns and had met the swimming fraternity from the northern areas last week to map a way forward.

“Emanating from this meeting is a report that will be submitted to MPAC calling for a full and thorough investigation into the management and functioning of all municipal pools under the business unit,” he said.

‘No one was hoodwinked’

MSUNDUZI municipal spokesperson Brian Zuma said the issue of the swimming pools needs to be looked into within the broader context of the ageing infrastructure.

“Plans and programmes like the Pietermaritzburg Urban Renewal Programme seek to address challenges from a broader perspective, and not just in isolation,” he said.

Zuma said a facilities upgrade and maintenance plan that includes sports facilities and swimming pools has been drawn up and will be implemented once it is ready. He said in the meantime the public had access to swimming pools that open at 12 pm and close at 6 pm, except the Olympic pool, which closes at 7 pm.

Zuma said the two pools that are not operational at present are the Eastwood and Sobantu pools, which have major challenges and are receiving attention. “We have engaged the Life Guard Academy headed by Deon Woodley to assist with the assessment of the lifeguards as per requirement,” he said, adding: “No one was hoodwinked [that the pools would be opened].”

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