The coastal cloaca

Last Sunday, which was December 21, 2008, I had a bit of a sad experience. With a a couple of passengers, I had occasion to drive from the Morningside, Burman Bush area, over to the Botanic Gardens, and from there to Essenwood Road, and then down through town to the Point area and back to Morningside. The town has a dilapidated air with pavements which were unswept, and had not been for many moons, judging by the size of the weeds. Street furniture was badly in need of painting, potholes were proliferating in the roads and it was not only the busy downtown areas that are affected in this way, but even the leafy streets in the suburbs were looking down at heel and badly in need of attention.

To say that Point Road, around the the intersections of West and Smith Street is looking squalid, is to be guilty of a gross understatement. The beachfront is our crown jewel, which tourists should be paying big bucks to visit, and yet it is being ruined, and I don’t know the cause. Is it greedy building owners, a huge influx of poor people to the area, crime? What? Whatever factors are at work, they must be identified and sorted or we are going to end up as some sort of coastal cloaca. Ever fewer people are going to want come here.

Having travelled a fair way through town on Sunday, it was inevitable and that we would come across another problem which is plaguing Durban at the moment. The matter is, of course, the fact that there are so many malfunctioning traffic lights and, although I can’t accurately remember exactly how many were not working, it was more than a double-handful.

By a strange, well perhaps not so strange, coincidence, the Sunday Tribune of the same day, December 21, carried a story headlined “Berea Road’s killer corners”. In the story, it was reported that faulty traffic lights have been causing havoc at a number of locations in Berea Road. These are the bridges at Essenwood Road and Musgrave Road and the robots have apparently not been working for three weeks. At least 30 accidents were reported from those locations in the last three weeks. In spite of this ongoing problem, City Police pointsmen had not been deployed in the area, which is one of the most busiest in the city. There is a picture heading the story which shows absolute chaos with cars going every which way trying to get through the intersection. An onlooker reported city policemen on a bridge over Berea Road operating a speed trap, but totally unconcerned with traffic chaos at occurring not a couple of yards from where they sat.

In the Natal Mercury of December 22, 2008, there is a reader’s letter which notes that city management, because they live here, must pass these intersections and others like them every day, and yet they do nothing. The reader is is quite right to raise this point and you can’t begin to understand how these people can neglect their own home in such a fashion.

The Sunday Tribune article of the 21st, said that a contractor was responsible for repairing the traffic lights and the questions should be asked why the city’s own staff is not being used for this task, and why, failing that, the contractors are not being supervised adequately.

The Durban streets that we travel in every day are not yet looking quite like the streets of Zimbabwe or the other third-world troublespots that we see so so regularly in the news. But they are deteriorating and will start to look that way before too much longer.
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