Let’s take a walk, Sir

2019-06-03 10:28
Stephanie Saville.

Stephanie Saville.

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Is there anybody out there?

No, I’m not quoting that classic Pink Floyd song. Not this time.

I’m just wondering if there’s anyone left in Msunduzi’s service departments to sort out the city.

Perhaps for the benefit of the new administrator, Sibusiso Sithole, I should take him for a walk through the minds of residents and the way the organisation (or lack of it?) is perceived by the public in the capital.

At the city’s newspaper, we are on the receiving end of a lot of opinions from readers on how the municipality operates, so this is not a wild, random guess. I know the essence of what people across the city are thinking. Let me stress this is not me having a go at the administrator. He’s new and he’s precious to us after the hole we’ve found ourselves in. I want to see him succeed. I want to cheer him on as he sweeps the rubbish out, starts afresh and restores our faith in the administration at City Hall. We all do.

So, now that’s out of the way, let’s pretend we’re taking a hypothetical walk through the offices of various Msunduzi departments.

We start off at the “You’re Not Welcome” sign at the main front door of the municipality. At this point we see a Disservice Charter pinned on the wall to remind workers how to treat their customers. Take a look.

1. Let them wait in queues. Their time is not precious. With any luck, it may also put them off coming back.

2. Act disinterested when they eventually arrive at your desk. Avoid eye contact at all costs. If you look them in the eye, they’ll think you care.

3. Make sure you speak to them like they’re stupid/wasting your time/inferior in every sense to you.

4. Take them through the motions of solving their problem, then relegate it all to file 13, never again to see the light of day.

5. If they phone in, let the phone ring many, many times before you answer. If you answer (which is not obligatory btw), make sure the caller realises their call is not important to you. At all. Transfer them to another department that’s out for tea/lunch/(insert occasion). Feel free to cut them off.

Now let’s walk through to the accounts section. See that big sign? It’s the one that says “Disconnect them anyway!”. It is big and bright, surrounded by flashing lights. Many say that this exercise is paramount to keeping the City’s coffers afloat, so it needs to be well-lit.

A wander through to the services section (electricity, water and sanitation, roads, etc.) reveals an entrance hall with a big rubbish bin overflowing with reference numbers tossed aside by the employees. Mine are also in there. I reported massive potholes and large sections of bad road damage in Willowton Road and other roads in September last year. (Serious aside to readers — please be careful driving in Willowton Road. You know that main industrial arterial road? It really is bloody dangerous. You risk your car’s suspension, your even-keeled temper and saying some choice words. I say some each day. Of course, they’re all in the Oxford English Dictionary.)

And all this, I suppose, is explained by the sign at the roads’ section: “Potholes are not a problem. They make driving interesting for our residents. Take complaints with a pinch of salt.”

At the water section, the sign reads: “Let’s have water, water everywhere. Why should it be contained to the pipes that carry it? We like sprays and puddles and pools.”

Now it’s time to walk through the parks department. There’s no one in, though. They’re all lost in the overgrown verges. Here’s their succinct sign: “Gone to pot.”

The traffic department’s sign reads: “This way for your invisibility cloak. In times of traffic crisis, simply disappear.”

The sign at the sewage department reads: “We’re up sh*t street.  If they grumble, give ’em a paddle.”

The street lighting team’s darkened office has a sign saying: “Remove a working globe each day. Don’t replace it.” They’re like goths. They like the dark.

The electricity department’s sign is not lit.  It says: “Down with substation maintenance. Let them burn, baby burn.”

The municipal call centre sign blasts the words: “They may as well be phoning Mars. Let’s keep it that way.”

The sign on councillors walls reads: “Never let governance get in the way of a good political feud.” Another encourages them to stone-wall residents.

Of course, not every municipal worker or councillor or department embodies these horrid examples. Let’s cheer for those exceptions and hope like hell they’re the ones who serve us next time we dare to darken Msunduzi’s doorstep.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  opinion and analysis
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