Urban neglect

2009-03-17 00:00

A recent report in The Witness has highlighted tensions at city hall between the mayor and the municipal manager. When this is coupled with mounting protests over the way in which the rates have been determined, as well as public concern over what are seen as the exorbitant packages proposed for the city’s deputy managers, it is not surprising that many ratepayers regard the Msunduzi Municipality as being in a state of disarray.

While it is inevitable that the pre-election period will tend to turn an unflattering light on even the best-run public bodies, several reports in this paper over the last few weeks suggest that all is not as it should be as far as the running of the city is concerned.

There is a certain irony in Arts Minister Pallo Jordan’s pronouncement at the Bessie Head Library this last weekend that reading is crucial to the development of critical thinking, as it follows hard on the heels of a report that there has been no budget allocation to buy new books since 2004, and that consequently local readers have been faced with empty shelves and a lack of recent titles.

More recently, a cricket match at the city’s cricket oval revealed that absolutely nothing has been done about the historic and unique 1892 bandstand, blown down during a storm in early January — not even to protect it from scrap metal thieves. Still on the subject of recreational facilities, an article in this newspaper yesterday underlined the life-threatening neglect of the city’s swimming pools.

And then there is the filthy and down-at-heel state of the CBD, the historic core of the town and the part of the city which gives it its specific identity and attracts tourists.

There is a great deal of expertise available and several organisations eager to play a part in restoring Pietermaritzburg to its position as arguably the province’s most distinctive and attractive city. However, without co-ordination and drive from the city’s officials, any improvement will be piecemeal and unlikely to halt the overall decline.

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