Buses and renaming

According to the Mercury of November 26, 2008, it seems that Durban’s bus service is again in trouble.

Municipal manager Michael Sutcliffe was reported as telling a committee meeting that the Durban transport operator will not be receiving a subsidy from central government for the period January 2009 to March 2009. The amount of money that was due to be paid to the bus operator is by central government was R46 million and, according to a company spokesman, the company won’t be able to operate without it.

Both central and provincial governments have said that they don’t have the funds to cover that amount and it’s beginning to look awfully as if the city is going to have to cough up the money in addition to the 40 million that it will already have to pay the bus company Remant Alton.

According to the Mercury of December 1, 2008, it seems that things are hotting up in the court case which has been brought by the opposition parties in the Durban Council to the street renaming which took place recently. The leader of the Democratic Alliance John Steenhuisen, and city manager Mike Sutcliffe have apparently been trading insults in the court papers.

Steenhuisen called Sutcliffe “nothing more than an ANC lackey”.

The opposition are bringing the case in an effort to get the renaming reversed and, of course, the city and its ANC leadership, in the form of her Michael Sutcliffe, are vigorously opposing the move. One of the most controversial of the street renamings was when Kingsway in Amanzimtoti was renamed after Andrew Zondo, who had set a bomb at a shopping centre in the town, killing a number of innocent civilians.

On that particular issue Sutcliffe said “Naturally there are strong feelings each way about Andrew Zondo. Such is our history.”
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Bus strike over !!!

The good news in the Sunday Tribune, of October 26, 2006, apart from KZN winning the rugby Currie Cup yesterday, is that the strike by bus drivers is finally over. The news was very unexpected and it isn’t all together clear how the breakthrough came to be. The article is a bit confused, to my eyes at least, but it seems that a deal was brokered with the help of eThekwini ANC chairperson John Mchunu. It seems that a consultative forum to decide on the future of public transport in city is to established and that it is to include driver representation. More details when I get them.

I’m very glad that things are sorted and I hope that they stay that way. I am sympathetic to the drivers but feel that they could have played the game a bit better and kept essential services running. One of the papers last week reported that disabled people were among the ones to suffer most from the strike because their bus service was also suspended and minibus taxis don’t have facilities for wheelchairs. Some disabled school pupils at sleep over at their schools for a time because the strike started after they were dropped off at school and the drivers didn’t even pick them up again before knocking off work. I also know that senior citizens, dependent on the buses to get out from their retirement complexes to pay bills or whatever, have had a very hard time as well.

GUYS, YOU COULD HAVE DONE BETTER.
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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.
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Short updates

The bits and pieces of news have been piling up so I thought I’d have a clear-out.

Sunday Tribune – October 5, 2008.

The paper reports that there are plans to declare the beachfront area a glass-free zone and outlaw public drinking. This is in response to the events described I described here. In addition, on the Friday night, there was a strong police presence and mini-bus taxis and buses were barred from entering the beachfront area. There are apparently also plans to keep a track of where buses and taxis come from in future.

In act assumed to be somehow connected with the bus drivers’ strike, 19 buses were set alight at the depot at Ntuzuma early on Friday morning. A picture in the Tribune shows the buses absolutely gutted and one doubts if they could ever be repaired. This is not the first time that Remant Alton buses have been set alight, with 59 having been burnt in an attack on the Umlazi depot on April 23, 2006. You would have thought that with that experience, and given the present tense situation, they would have stepped up security at ther depots.

The Mercury, October 6, 2008

The paper reports that commuters are likely to be without buses for another week.

The Mercury, October 7, 2008

A heist at the Riverside Hotel (ex Athlone) netted millions in jewells which were going to be auctioned at the hotel. The robbery took place at 7am on October 6, as the jewells were being moved into the auction area.

I’ve already noted that two Durban Solid Waste trucks were set alight last Wednesday. Two more were burnt in an attack at 11pm on the DSW depot at Clairwood onOctober, 4. The paper reported that 80% of DSW workers were back on the job and that some collections were being done over the weekend. As noted in an earlier post, our rubbish was collected today in Waterfall.

The Mercury, October 8, 2008

The paper reports Remant Alton as having closed down indefinitely as result of the the three week drivers’ strike. Executive officer Paul Rush said that the company was planning to recruit sub-contractors to operate its routes. Now, that should be fine recipe for chaos. And there could be more on the way if strikers go ahead with plans to march through town on Friday, in spite of being refused permission by the city to do so. I find it ironic that a city run by the ANC, an organisation founded to fight for democracy, has no problem denying others the right to protest.
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Metro snippets

Metro Esasegagasini, which accompanied The Mercury on October 3, 2008, reported, amongst other things, that:

* A streamlined public transport system which would allow commuters to travel on trains, buses, and taxis on one ticket. There were plenty of comments from politicians but little detail and no dates. One assumes that this would have to happen before the soccer fans arrive in 2010.

* A time capsule has been sealed at the Natural Science Museum and is due to be opened in two stages in 2058 and 2108. It contains an ipod, a cellphone, DVDs and messages from children of today to the children of those eras. From my other research, there is also a capsule built into the foundation of the Millennium Tower. That one contains a brassiere, if memory serves me correctly.
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The bus strike continues

The Natal Mercury, of September 29, 2008, reports that the buses could be off the streets for another two months. The drivers are objecting to having to work for Remant Alton and I can’t say I blame them much. The lack of transport is causing all sorts of problems, as you might expect, and it’s all down to the municipality’s fatally flawed decision to sell off the bus service in the first place. I’ve got a car, thank God, but I feel for all those who do not.

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The strike continues

The Mercury of Wednesday, September 24, 2008, reports that Remant Alton (our lovely bus company) has fired over 350 bus drivers for participating in an illegal strike. The strike was precipitated by Deputy City Manager Derek Naidoo’s article on the background to the ongoing bus debacle which I reported here.

The drivers were reported in Wednesday’s Mercury as saying that they did not want to work for Remant Alton, because of its history of financial mismanagement, and that they would prefer to work for the municpality. Naidoo replied to the drivers by saying that the munipality was not in a position to take them on. I can imagine how that soothed the drivers’ passions.

The Mercury of today, September 25, 2008, reports that Remant Alton was to use trainee drivers and advertise for new staff in an attempt to beat the strike.

The comment was made along the way by Naidoo that the city could not break its contract with Remant Alton unless it defaulted. So why buy the buses from the company? The best course would have been to let it go bust and for the municpality to take over the bus service. It seems to me to be the height of folly to buy the buses back from them but, despite their poor history, let them still run the service.

There are few details available as yet but city management have come up with what seems like another harebrained scheme. This time they have some notion of getting the minibus taxi operators involved in the running of the bus service once remant Alton’s contract expires in late 2010. More details as and when…

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