Parking free for all

2018-04-05 19:48

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Once a lucrative revenue source, Msunduzi’s paid parking contract with Panzascore went from generating roughly R200 000 every month for the City to just R36 000 last month.

Pietermaritzburg businessman Paris Dlamini, who is the director of Panza­score, said the contract has caused him more headaches than his other business ventures.

Panzascore went into a joint venture with Johannesburg-based company Dynamic Parking Solutions and Msunduzi in 2013. When the contract expired after three years, the City extended it from month to month for six months, but the last extension was in November 2016.

“Things were going well in the beginning. We gave the municipality its 25% share of the profits and that used to amount to between R150 000 and R200 000 every month, but then we started having problems with the lack of enforcement by the traffic officers,” said Dlamini.

He said his attendants could not fine drivers who refused to pay or overstayed their fee.

Dlamini said their 100 parking attendants continued operating without any extension and Msunduzi was paid its share until a week ago when Panza­score was told to stop working by the City’s traffic department. This came after several Facebook posts surfaced, some of which tagged Mayor Themba Njilo, saying that the parking attendants were operating illegally.

“As with any joint venture, it can only be a success if all the parties play their role and in this case the municipality didn’t. Unfortunately people assume that I made a lot of money from this but I really didn’t. Indeed the system had great potential but for some reasons unknown to me it was allowed to collapse,” said Dlamini.

This is not the first time the paid parking system has failed to deliver the expected gains for Msunduzi. In 1996 the City introduced computerised meters but they were later scrapped when they become unprofitable as motorists were able to tamper with them by putting two-cent coins into them instead of R2 coins. Other machines were vandalised and became too costly to fix. Msunduzi had hoped to generate R500 000 but only received R170 000 in 1998.

In 2002 the municipality appointed African Parking Solutions to manage the voucher system. The controversial contract was terminated in just over a year after it was found that the council did not follow the legal procurement process when it appointed the service provider. The contract also reportedly generated R9 000 for the municipality monthly instead of the R2 million-a-year that was anticipated from charging R1,50 an hour. For the first five months the City received more than R65 000 monthly but the amounts quickly went down. Issues of enforcement were also raised and there were calls for Msunduzi to review its traffic by-laws.

“I think going forward the municipality needs to decide what it wants from a parking system because it has to be more than just about money, it also have to be about the proper management of the use of public spaces, so council can’t expect the service provider to do everything,” said Dlamini.

Panzascore branch manager Mari Rudman said the municipality made more than R5,6 million from the contract but Panzascore had to bear all the operational expenses, including the purchasing of parking meters and printing vouchers as well as paying rent and training the staff. She said after paying all the affected parties their share, the company only made R1 million in profit.

She echoed Dlamini’s sentiments that the system could have generated more money for the municipality in fines. “Having our attendants on the streets also helped in reducing crimes like car break-ins and remote jamming thefts,” said Rudman.

She said the tender was advertised in September but later retracted on a technicality. She said even if the new contract is not awarded to Panzascore, she hopes the new service provider will employ the attendants who have been working for the company.

Most of the attendants, such as Abigail Gumede and Noxolo Zikhali, have been going out to the streets every day and guarding people’s cars for a donation.

They told The Witness that their monthly commission averaged around R5 000 but now they do not think they will even make 10% of that.

Gumede, who started working when the paid parking system was introduced in 2013, said she does not know whether to start looking for a new job or wait for Msunduzi to award the new contract. “On good days my commission was around R200, today I only got R50 in donations. I’m going to save R24 for the taxi fare for Tuesday and then use the rest to buy bread,” said the mother of two.

Zikhali, from Dambuza, said she could not stay at home and do nothing the whole day so she would rather beg for donations. “... The problem now is that we are competing with vagrants who are posing as parking attendants,” she said.

Msunduzi had not responded to The Witness’s media query at the time of publication.

Read more on:    msunduzi municipality

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