Shops act for clean CBD

2014-06-27 00:00

EVERY morning staff at Asmalls in Retief Street have to navigate their way through a smelly sea of urine and faeces. The back of their premises on Prince George Street is being used as a public toilet.

For more than a year staff members have been cleaning up the mess themselves, but now Asmalls director Yunus Asmall asks how long can they go on doing this. He said the staff who do the cleaning do it voluntarily but that the situation had become exploitative and ­untenable.

This, plus the feeling that the Msunduzi Municipality had abandoned downtown Pietermaritzburg, motivated Asmalls to invite other businesses in the Retief Street area to form a committee to look at revamping their block.

Businesses involved include Ellerines, Quickserve, Nu Shop, Waltloo and Ballims Pharmacy. They want to adopt the block and embark on revamp, but in order to do so in a sustainable manner they need buy-in from the municipality.

However all attempts to get senior municipal officials to attend their meetings have proved fruitless. “This area was ignored and neglected during the apartheid era and it seems the same thing is happening now,” said Asmall.

Kantha Naidoo, HR manager and legal adviser at Asmalls, said safety and security had become a major issue. “When there is a breakdown in law and order, it is very easy for crime to thrive. This is what we found was happening — the piles of rubbish, the traffic chaos and uncontrolled informal trading that was allowed to mushroom has made it easy for muggers and pickpockets to operate in the area.”

According to Naidoo, the group started meeting in late 2013 and the South African Police Service had come on board. She praised Brigadier Johan Reyn­ders and Warrant Officer Farouk Khan for their interest and involvement. They have also had representatives from the Cato Ridge Taxi Association attend their meetings, wanting to play their part. The taxi association bemoans the lack of ablution facilities for their passengers.

The businesses have tried to keep the areas around their shops clean, but they feel that they are fighting a losing battle. This is why they are looking for a more long-term and sustained plan of urban renewal for their precinct.

Asmall said they were mindful of the fact that there were certain formal businesses contributing to the mayhem and this was why upgrading the area would also require the strict enforcement of regulations and bylaws.

For Naidoo what they are trying to achieve is similar to New York City’s broken window policy — fix the little things to help crime diminish. She said all they want is a clean-up, a fix-up and a facelift of the area and they do not expect the municipality to do everything. “It is about a partnership. We’ve been asking how can we work together to uplift this area and make it safe for residents and visitors to the city,” she said.

Champion of the city’s Urban Renewal Project, Madeleine Jackson-Plaatjies, has welcomed the initiative. She invited the group to contact her office so that a meeting can be scheduled between representatives of the Retief Street Precinct committee and relevant senior municipal managers. “They can present their ideas and we can work on finding middle ground so that we can work together for the betterment of our capital city,” Jackson-Plaatjies said.

She added that the municipality was working on developing a plan that will deal with the cleanliness of the city on a sustainable basis. “This plan will be put into motion early in the new financial year, which starts in July, when we will be in a position to access funding from the Expanded Public Works Programme. The deputy municipal manager for community services, Boniwe Zulu, will manage this programme as part of the Pietermaritzburg Urban Renewal Programme,” Jackson-Plaatjies added.

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