People's Post

‘Mow shedding’ lifted in Cape Town as tender is finalised

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A file image of a public open space seen from Alphen Drive in Constantia. Collin Walker, chair of the Friends of Constantia Valley Greenbelts, says mowing has been an ongoing issue. PHOTO: Supplied
A file image of a public open space seen from Alphen Drive in Constantia. Collin Walker, chair of the Friends of Constantia Valley Greenbelts, says mowing has been an ongoing issue. PHOTO: Supplied

With the City of Cape Town’s mowing tender at last finalised, “mow shedding” – implemented in the past few months – has been “lifted” at community parks and other public open spaces.

In October last year, People’s Post reported that mowing services across Cape Town had been adversely affected by an ongoing appeal related to a mowing tender.

The City said that measures had been put in place to provide the service using the available capacity, “although it will be reduced (frequency of cutting) until full capacity is reinstated”. In other words, “mow shedding”.

READ | A whiter blade of pale: Resources limited as ‘Mowshedding’ hits Cape Town

Last week, the City of Cape Town’s Recreation and Parks Department confirmed that five service providers had been appointed and were servicing all grassed areas across the metropole.

The 24-month contracts are in place until Sunday 30 June next year.

“With contractors in place, the department had closed 1 614 customer service requests in the past two months,” the City said, adding that each of the City’s four areas – North, East, Central and South – were awarded a main contractor as well as two standby contractors “to ensure that there are sufficient resources to manage the backlog”.

The City stated that the appointed service providers’ contractual agreements also made provision for sub-contracting “to ensure that services will be delivered without interruption and with sufficient capacity to cope with the mowing demands”.

It also stated that “after experiencing delays with the mowing tender due to appeals, the Recreation and Parks Department has already initiated the process for a new tender to be in place after the current one expires”.

Colin Walker, chair of the Friends of Constantia Valley Greenbelts, however, believes that unless the City extends the tender contracts to at least three years, a sustainable solution will remain out of reach.

For the past six years, Walker has been drawing attention to City service delivery failures concerning the greenbelts.

Early last year, People’s Post reported how this same problem necessitated an extension of the 2019 mowing tender contracts with the amended expiry date of the four tenders respectively set for April and May last year.

The new tender was advertised in February 2021.

It was projected that the tender would be awarded by February last year. However, this deadline came and went with the tender appeals process only concluded and resolved recently.

ALSO READ | ‘City is not cutting it’

Thus Walker says a 24-month period is way too short.

“You are continually teaching new contractors what to do – they have no understanding, no knowledge of the greenbelts. And, to exacerbate the problem, the contractors are poorly managed by the City.”

He claims new contractors do not undergo a proper induction of the various greenbelts, nor do they receive adequate instruction from the City.

“Somebody has to take them to each of the 12 greenbelts, show them the scope of the work, let them do it and then follow up for quality control. But they are not being monitored.”

He adds that although the greenbelts are now being mowed, it is being done on an adhoc basis.

“It hasn’t been consistent, hasn’t been of a high enough standard and the work is often incomplete. There is no adequate system in place. Overall, there is a lack of quality and delivery.”

Walker explains that one of the main reasons for mowing the greenbelts is to prevent alien encroachment. As an example, he points to the invasive Poplar tree. A Poplar can form large single-species colonies through clonal growth from the roots. He says when mowing is irregular, these saplings grow fast and form dense stands in open areas.

“When mowing eventually takes place, the contractors mow around these stands and they eventually become small trees that now require a big effort to remove. Proactive management by the various City departments is poor management in this regard.”

Walker says a well-trained contractor would know how to recognise and to remove these invaders as soon as they shoot up. He says this has been an ongoing issue.

“Overall, the City is falling short in its mandate of maintaining the greenbelts, of which the most basic of those jobs is to mow the open spaces and keep the paths open.”

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