Warts and all tour of the city

2018-03-14 13:45
German delegation visits Jika Joe settlement.

German delegation visits Jika Joe settlement. (Ian Carbutt )

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Msunduzi bared the city’s “flaws” when councillors took the South Africa- German Network delegation on a visit to some of its ugly areas, including informal settlements.

Leading the tour, Mayor Themba Njilo said they wanted to show their counterparts what they are dealing with before discussions are held.

Msunduzi is hosting officials from the German national government as well as teams from the three cities of Munich, Halle and Ludiwigsburg for a five-day workshop on integrated and liveable neighbourhoods. The other South African municipalities that are part of the network are the Nelson Mandela Bay and Ekurhuleni metros.

“It’s not that Msunduzi does not have nice tourist sites and they will eventually get to visit those, but those we don’t need help with, it’s these ongoing challenges that we need their input on. We’ve been trying our solutions — some have worked, others have not, so we need a fresh perspective,” George Lebelo from Msunduzi’s spatial development unit said.

Njilo said they are hoping the network will also help the City with tools to accelerate service delivery and tackle funding challenges for some of the projects.

He explained to the delegation that urban decay and non-compliance with bylaws were some his biggest frustrations. The decay is largely due to absentee landlords, where people have let out their houses because of demand for accommodation.

“We also need help with things like the shared public spaces in making them more organised because as you can see, we have shop owners who put their goods on the pavement, then you have informal traders also competing for the same space, meanwhile pedestrians also need a space to walk on,” said Njilo.

The group also went to Pietermaritz Street in the area notoriously known as Somalia, where 80% of the buildings are alleged to have been hijacked by foreign nationals.

Lebelo said the area has become ungovernable and the municipality is struggling to even enforce the basic by-laws.

“People who live here don’t even pay rates, they park on the street, they block traffic and run this area as if it falls outside the municipality’s jurisdiction,” he said.

The delegation was also taken to an illegal recycling site whose owner was recently forced by council to leave another illegal site on Garfield Street.

Msunduzi’s head of Environmental Health, Clive Anthony, said illegal recycling sites are on the rise because of demand for the material that is being recycled.

When the group visited the Jika Joe area, they were shown where low-cost flats will be built for people living in the informal settlement. The contractor is expected on site within the coming weeks.

The German visitors were, however, concerned about the noise from the N3 highway and how it will affect the residents who will live less than 200 metres away. Germany has legislation that requires the noise to be less than 55 decibels during the day and 45 decibels at night but South Africa has no such policy.

They suggested some noise reduction technology or to build a noise reduction wall facing the N3.

Dr Tina Silbernagl from the GIZ, a state-owned entity responsible for facilitating the implementation of projects in Germany, said noise is a health issue and the municipality needs to find ways to reduce it, especially in residential areas where children are going to live. “It’s not about buying the most expensive equipment. It’s about finding the right material, but we will talk about this further,” she said.

Dr Oliver Weigel from the German ministry for Urban Development said one of the things he noticed during the tour was the challenge of maintenance of buildings and making public spaces more liveable.

He said these would be discussed during the workshop, as well as issues of safety in public spaces.

“We will also be using the workshop to learn from South Africans about how they have solved some of the problems with regards to things like implementing projects,” he said.

Weigel will later this week be engaging with officials from the SA national government on some matters discussed during the workshop and the relationship between the two countries.

The workshop resumes on Wednesday with nodal development and urban regeneration, which will see projects including the integrated public transport network discussed.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  msunduzi municipality

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