Uproar over call to ‘pay as you pray’

2016-05-12 09:10
Freshly painted parking bays on Chota Motala Road in Raisethorpe showing the paid parking system is imminent.

Freshly painted parking bays on Chota Motala Road in Raisethorpe showing the paid parking system is imminent. (Kailene Pillay, The Witness )

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Pietermaritzburg - Prepare to pay to pray.

Along with the installation of paid parking outside the Raisethorpe Mosque, parents fetching children from schools in the area will also have to pay to park.

The imminent implementation of paid parking in the Raisethorpe business area is causing an uproar among ­business owners and motorists.

Freshly painted parking spaces along Chota Motala Road in Raisethorpe have raised the concern of officials from the Raisethorpe Muslim Society.

“We pray five times a day. Now we must pay five times a day?” asked vice- chairperson of the society Omar ­Mohideen.

He said the society has a mosque, a school, a madrassah and welfare centre and consists of a number of members.

“Why should people pay to drop off and pick up their children? How will they monitor the taxis who will also be dropping children off? Will taxis pay, the same as parents, to park there for a few minutes?” asked Mohideen.

He said the society wrote a letter to the municipality last week in the hopes that the city would reconsider their decision.

“We appealed to the municipality to allow us our religious rights to pray ­freely. We appealed for them to reconsider their decision,” Mohideen said.

Shop owners, especially small ­business owners, also expressed their concerns.

“There are mainly small businesses on this road and our profits come from those buying bread, milk and other small everyday items. No one will shop from us if they now have to pay for parking outside for a few minutes,” said Khatija Moosa who runs a small convenience shop.

A barbershop owner, who asked not be named, said his clientele are men who pay between R20 and R30 for a haircut.

“My clients come to us for our low prices and good service. If they have to pay for parking outside my shop, they will not come back. They will rather go to bigger salons with free parking,” said the barbershop owner.

Secretary for Msunduzi Ratepayers Form (MRF) Minnesh Parmanand said they “absolutely object” to the paid parking system in Raisethorpe.

“There are not many parking bays in the area to justify the revenue the city will make. The money they will make will certainly not break their coffers,” said Parmanand, adding the idea of paid parking in Raisethorpe was “ridiculous” and that shop owners will “suffer”.

“As far as I know, there has not been any consultation or public participation which is really unfair as the shop owners should have had a say in this,” he said.

The Witness has previously reported on business owners petitioning against private company Panzascore’s decision to ­implement the next phase of the ­system to areas outside the CBD.

DA mayoral candidate Mergen Chetty spearheaded the petition last October saying they received more than 500 signatures against the paid parking system.

Speaking to The Witness, Chetty said although they were not opposed to regulating parking, the parking system ­currently in place was “flawed” and ­residents could not afford such expenses during such “dire” economic times.

“Parking bays have been marked in front of the mosque and the high school in Raisethorpe. How can it be right that we are asking people to pay to pray or for parents to pay twice a day when they drop off and pick up children?” ­questioned Chetty.

Chetty said he suggested to Msunduzi Municipality that the city run the project and allow the first half an hour to be free.

“Council did not accept our ­suggestion because tenderpreneurs want to make money and this flies in the face of their proposal that this benefits the poor,” he said.

Msunduzi Municipality’s acting spokesperson Nqobile Madonda said the public participation process ­happened before the city implemented the system in the CBD. The call for ­public comment was for input on the city implementing the system across Msunduzi and not just in Raisethorpe.

However, The Witness previously ­reported that in 2012 the usual 21-day period for public comment was shortened to 14 days as the city required new bylaws because the old bylaws related to the fixed parking meters. Madonda said the same rates as the city centre will apply throughout Msunduzi.

The municipality awarded the tender for the parking system to Panzascore in 2012. Panzascore is a privately owned company with businessmen Paris ­Dlamini and Riquadeu Jacobs as two of the four directors.


Although CEO of Pietermaritzburg Chamber of Business (PCB) Melanie Veness said she could not yet ­comment on the issues being faced in Raisethorpe, the chamber had done an on-site investigation into the workings of the parking system in the CBD.

Veness said the chamber was not against the concept of paid parking in busy business districts.

“It makes sense that parking bays are turned over regularly and that the city earns an income from a paid system, but in order for such a system to work effectively it needs to be rolled out evenly across the city, the system needs to be fair and the costs need to be appropriate,” said Veness.

According to their on-site investigation in the city centre, Veness said they found that the system was not rolled out evenly.

“Not all bays are manned, not all cars are ticketed and there is no ­recovery from people who refuse to pay, which creates unfair trading conditions,” she said.

The other issue Veness mentioned was that as one gets further away from the centre of the city, the business and parking dynamics change. “In Greyling Street, for instance, most businesses are SMMEs that operate out of residential properties that have, in recent years, been rezoned as commercial properties,” she said.

She said the vast majority of those properties do not have sufficient on-site parking to accommodate their staff. Traditionally staff and customers have parked quite comfortably alongside each other in the street during the day.

However, with the paid system in place, staff cannot afford to pay R6 per hour for parking.

“This means that the value of those commercial properties will fall, the area is likely to degenerate, very little will accrue from parking fees and the end result is likely to be a reduction in rates revenue for the city. Several properties in these streets are currently listed for sale, and estate agents are battling to sell them,” said Veness.

She said the chamber will conduct a similar investigation on how the paid parking will affect the Raisethorpe business district. — WR.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  parking fees

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