Streets and stadium

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.

John Steenhuisen
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 !!


Snippets from the week

The Mercury of Monday, November 10, 2008 reported, amongst other things, that:

  • The city hall organ, which is unserviceable as reported here, is not going to be fixed. This according to municipal manager Michael Sutcliffe, who said that fixing the organ was not a priority and that it was not something that ratepayers should paying for. The city can’t afford a couple of million to fix an organ dating back to 1894 but it can afford billions for an unecessary football stadium??
  • A local artist Jenny Cullinan held a Dirty Durban exhibition at the Botanic Gardens consisting of photographs of the filth and litter in Durban. The pictures were apparently all taken after the end of the Durban Solid Waste strike.

The Mercury of Tuesday, November 11, 2008 reported, amongst other things, that:

  • That a heist had taken place the previous day in Maphumulo in rural KZN. Sixteen men, armed with assault rifles and pistols, had ambushed a convoy taking money to a pensions pay point, killing two policemen and critically wounding two others. By the sounds of things, the robbers drove up to and opened fire on the police vehicle without warning.

The Mercury of Wednesday, November 12, 2008 reported, amongst other things, that:

  • There was a growing tide of protest at the decision not to fix the city hall organ.
  • Moses Mabhida Stadium visitor’s centre manager Florina Maphalala was quoted as saying that the stadium would be like Durban’s Table Mountain – a great tourist attraction. She apparently doesn’t think she’ll be watching the world cup final because it would conflict with her Christian beliefs.



Stadium bags award

I came across a press release from the Concrete Manufacturers Association that the new stadium had won an award. That’s impressive whether you agree or not on the fact that its being built in the first place. The following is taken from the press release:

Picture Courtesy CMA

Moses Mabhida Stadium – Durban

Regional Winner – Coastal
Category – Innovative Products: other innovative concrete products showing ingenuity.

Straight and raking precast concrete columns were used for the construction of the Moses Mabhida Soccer Stadium. The façade incorporates cast-in-situ columns with anchor bolts up to level 3.

Precast concrete columns, comprising a stub at the base and an upper section, were placed above the in-situ columns. Steel base plates on the stub columns were custom-designed and fabricated on site to correct any discrepancies in the anchor bolts.

At 15m long and weighing up to 65 tons each, the columns were manufactured on site to exact specifications and tight dimensional tolerances. A total of 30 raked columns of varying skew angles and 200 straight columns were deployed. The weight of the straight columns held them in place, whereas the raking columns were further secured by means of a push-pull tie on the field side of the bowl. The ties were removed after the upper slab, which was tied back to the column, was in position.

Through careful calculation, using a small working model for demonstration purposes, it was determined that if the precast concrete columns were lifted slightly above the centre of gravity, they would be aligned for positioning onto the stub column.

Once the columns were correctly positioned and bolted down, the splice slabs were shuttered and filled with concrete, and the gaps grouted. The completed columns were topped by steel caps. These support ring beams which transfer the vertical and high horizontal forces off the roof.

Professional Team
Architect: BKS/Group Five Design and Planning
Consulting Engineer: BKS
Quantity Surveyor: Ibhola Lethu Consortium
Contractor: A joint venture comprising Group Five, WBHO, and Pandev
Manufacturer: Group Five, WBHO, Pandev

Product Information
104 Precast concrete columns and raking columns (approximately 50 different types)

Judges’ Comments
Innovative engineering saved construction time and produced an aesthetic product.



Snippets from the week

I had intended to use this blog on a very occasional basis to record noteworthy things happening around the city but I’m starting to feel withdrawal symptoms if I should miss a couple of days, as happened this week when I had to go away on business. So here goes…

The Mercury of October 14, 2008, reported that Helen Zille, the mayor of Cape Town, was recently voted best mayor in the world. See mention of a reader’s letter, below, for an explanation of why this is unlikely to happen in Durban. Also, according to the paper, Independent bus operators have refused Remant Alton’s offer for them to take over its routes for fear of being targeted by striking workers.

The Mercury of October 15, 2008, reported that police had arrested two men for alledgedly plotting to kill a Durban Solid Waste Manager. They were arrested in Sydney Road and their car was to to contain two revolvers, ammunition, and some petrol bombs. In other news, Alfred Zondi, the chairman of the KZN Bus Council, called on the KZN Transport MEC Bheki Cele to intervene in the dispute between Remant Alton and its striking workers.

The requirements of Fifa for the World Cup in 2010 sound draconian to say the least. The Mercury reported 2010 Project Head Julie-May Ellingson as saying that, by 2010, the city will be empowered to immediately remove offending signage from buildings, especially anything which conflicts with Fifa’s requirements. At the moment, the city needs a court order before it can remove signage and that’s fine by me.

It’s a puzzle why we should tolerate such interference in our affairs. It would have been better in the longrun to have told Fifa to keep their World Cup. It seems that the city is running out of money (not surprising when you consider the extravagance onvolved in the new stadium) because Ellingson also appealed to business for R15-million to upgrade facilities around the stadium.

In another story, the eThekwini Municipality was awarded the best credit rating of any municpality in Africa. This is bad news as far as I’m concerned, because our masters are surely going to be tempted to borrow more money on the strength of that.

Residents around Inanda Dam have been warned not to eat fish caught in the dam or vegetables grown nearby. Apparently the water has been found to contain elevayed levels of Mercury. A further study is to done.

The Mercury of October 16, 2008, reported that riot police, snipers and helicopters had prevented a march by Remant Alton and Durban Solid Waste workers through Durban the previous day. City Manager Michael Sutcliffe said the decision had been taken for security reason because the march had the potential to turn violent.

Sounds to me like something that a National Party functionary might have said in the bad old days, not a senior member of an organistion that, itself, has a long history of fighting against injustice. You’d expect the authorities to be more sympathetic to workers who feel they are victims of injustice but I guess its only injustice if it’s done to you, not if its done by you…

The paper also reports that environmental affairs and tourism depty minister Rejoice Mabudafhasi has spoken negatively about the city’s loss of its Blue Flag beaches. The comments were made the previous day at a meeting at the Point Yacht club to launch a national action plan to protect our coastline. A brochure describing the plan apparently says that the loss of Blue Flag status could have a severe impact on tourism and business.

A reader’s letter, signed ‘Saddened’, in the Independent on Saturday, of October 18, 2008, has some comments about the recent award of Best Mayor in the World to Helen Zille, mayor of Cape Town. The reader says that he or she recently spent a week in Cape Town and found the streets to clean and well-maintained, that the traffic signals all worked and that he or she felt safe walking around in the evening. This contrasts strongly with the situation in Durban and the writer wonders whether this has anything to do with the fact that the DA is running Cape Town and the ANC, with its pre-occupation with minor issues such as street-renaming, is running this city.


No mass action, please

In a previous post, I mentioned the ongoing Jacob Zuma saga. The threat by local ANC branches to picket procedings is serious enough that KZN Judge President Vuka Tshabalala has called on the ANC not to inimidate the courts. The most worrying thing for the long-term future of this place, as I’ve said before, is that his supporters seem to have no concern about whether he is guilty or not.

The same paper also reports:

* The new Moses Mabhida stadium is going to cost R200-million more than expected but should still meet the October 2009 deadline. Work is about to start on the stadium precinct.

* The sad fact that 30% of South Africa’s municipal councillors are illiterate. Some can’t speak English and, therefore, follow the procedings in council meetings. More than two thirds don’t understand their roles, responsibilities or local government legislation. These figures are a horrific indictment of our education system and the apartheid regime which spawned it. The report concludes that adult education must become a priority for municpalities and I suppose that might help.