The Mercury of January 14, 2009, reported that a fire had broken out at the Royal hotel the day before, resulting in the evacuation of a hundred guests and staff. The fire apparently broke out on the third floor in a linen storage room. 7 eThekwini Metro fire tenders attended the scene and soon contained the fire. I am personally amazed that, given the shortages of staff that the fire department is currently experiencing, they could actually send out seven fire engines.
The paper also reports that on the previous day, the last section of the Moses Mabhida stadium. The arch, costing R448 million, was nearly complete when, at 3:45 p.m., the 60 tonne final piece was hoisted into place. The arch is made up of 96 separate pieces and at its apex towers over 100m above the playing surface. The arch is presumably mainly decorative but it will support the Teflon coated glass fibre stadium roof which will be apparently unique in the world.
It was announced during the week that city management were going to go out on the streets to help clean the new street name signs which had been defaced by vandals objecting to the street reanming in their areas. The Mercury of Friday, January 16, 2009, reported that many of these officials had taken some flak as they worked.
Mayor Obed Mlaba said he had been confronted by two ratepayers including one old lady who said that what they were doing was nonsense and another resident, known as Alistair, who said the street then shouldn’t have been changed in the first place and that spray-painting the street names was and vandalism, it was people protesting against the enforced changes.
The speaker of the council James Nxumalo said the city would continue the defaced signs and urged people to accept the changed names. He pointed out that they are about 45000 street names in the municipality and that only a hundred had been changed. DA caucus leader John Steenhuisen said that the street sign cleanup had been a cheap publicity stunt, and he had more to say on the subject in a letter published in the readers’ letters section of the same newspaper. He wrote:
An open later to eThekwini Mayor Obed Mlaba and city manager Mike Sutcliffe:
Dear Obed and Mike, I noticed you both very hard at work in my ward in Durban North cleaning the defaced street signs (the same ones you forcibly imposed on the Durban North community despite overwhelming community rejection).
You obviously so busy keeping the very relevant Swapo sign with your ANC baddies that you both failed to notice the graffiti on all the other municipal infrastructures in the area which has not been cleaned for years.
You also, no doubt, overlooked the overgrown municipal verges and the weeds in the road, drains and pavements which, despite repeated requests to your parks department, remain unattended to.
Your hard slog would have meant that you were also likely to miss the near-fatal accident which took place in Danville Avenue on the same morning. You will remember that this is the road where the residents and I have been pleading for some form of traffic calming to be implemented for the past two years with no success.
There is always the same excuse: no funds. It appears you guys have used all the funds on fancy projects, seven BMWs, overseas trips and expensive tracksuits for your councillors.
I was, however; glad to notice that you brought the luxury mayoral 4×4 along. You would have needed it if you’d wanted to visit any one of your municipal parks in the area, because the grass hardly gets cut and there is lots of litter which never gets collected.
I am sure that this was not just a cheap publicity stunt and will be ongoing, so the next time you decide to come and do some work in Durban North, I would be grateful if you could give me a call to meet you on the site.
This will enable me to provide you with the long list of basic municipal functions which, under your leadership, failed to get done.
With the exorbitant rates which you’ve passed on to the Durban North residents I think we all deserve to see you both getting your priorities right and doing something constructive for a change.
By the way Mr Mayor; your press statement urges the public to report illegal posters. Two months ago I reported whole bunch of illegal ANC rally posters which had been put up across the city; perhaps you could do some follow up because for some reason Michael won’t seem to come back to me on the progress.
DA caucus leader.
Apart from the street naming issue, reporter Coleen Dardagan has a story on the Moses Mabhida stadium saying that, while the residents of Durban are looking forward to using the new stadium, it’s also time the municipality told them how much they are in for. She quotes DA leader John Steenhuisen, again, saying that the city’s failure to release the financials of the stadium since July last year should set alarm bells ringing. She also says that city manager Michael Sutcliffe had promised the Mercury an interview in August last year to discuss the costs of the stadium, but that nothing had yet materialised.
Dardagan says that it is concerning that no one really knows what we are in for once the 2010 World Cup has come and gone, what the maintenance costs will be, and how much the budget has been overrun. She said she believes it’s time the city drew its citizens into its confidence and let them know.
The two issues covered in this post are ongoing but they show up the leadership style of our new masters perfectly; unaccountable. autocratic and obdurate. City councils and management from the past will be remembered for their support of of apartheid but at least nobody will be able to point a finger at them and say that the city fell apart while they sucked the cash tittie and scored cheap political points. We had high hopes that our society would improve when we voted “yes” in the referendum but all that’s really changed is that there is a new elite and one, moreover, that is so concerned with its enjoyment of the trappings of power things like maintenance are forgotten.
I’m depressed !!