Nelson Mandela Bay overrun with grass and weeds due to payment dispute with contractors

Overgrown grass and vegetation along the R75 opposite Algoa Park
SORRY SIGHT: Overgrown grass and vegetation along the R75 opposite Algoa Park

Overgrown grass and weeds along traffic islands and verges as well as tree branches blocking road signs have become the scenery for Nelson Mandela Bay motorists travelling past most of the more than 1,500 open spaces in the metro.

The state of the Bay’s roadways stems from grass cutters contracted to the Nelson Mandela Bay municipality downing tools as a result of price adjustment disputes.

Negotiations between the contractors and the metro have reached a stalemate, with the service providers claiming the city’s proposed increase is simply not enough.

It was unclear at the time of publication what the exact proposed increase was.

The metro’s public health department as well as budget and treasury met on Monday to discuss the amount requested by the contractors. 

“The companies complained to the department of public health about the city’s proposed increase,” a city insider, who did not want to be named, said.

“The contractors have a problem with the increase proposed by the city.

“They feel it’s not enough and now we’ve reached a deadlock.

“The service providers downed tools on the basis that they can’t accept the increase because they feel it’s not worth it.” 

In July 2021, the metro awarded nine companies a three-year contract worth R58m, which came to an end in 2023.

Port Elizabeth Metro B&B Association chair Shena Wilmot said she had raised the issue of overgrown grass with every municipal official who was willing to listen.

For tourism to flourish in this city, there are three things that aren’t negotiable — safety, a clean city and regular maintenance,” Wilmot said.

“It’s the municipality’s responsibility to maintain our city and unfortunately it falls short.

“Our city is looking very tired and needs a lot of TLC and unfortunately we don’t see a lot of that happening.” 

Ward 51 councillor Roelf Basson said he had received a number of complaints from residents but said work had started in earnest.

They have started cutting grass in the area and have done all the entrance roads already.

“They’re doing rough cutting at the moment.

“There’s progress but it’s not satisfactory.

“Beggars can’t be choosers.

“I’ve been begging since October to get grass to look decent for the festive season but nothing was done up until January 8,” Basson said.

Ward 2 councillor Renaldo Gouws said contractors had not been paid by the city for two to three months but the issue had been resolved last week.

“The contractors refused to work until the municipality settled its arrears.

“I believe it was settled last week and work started but theres a huge backlog.”

Gouws said that because of the backlog, he had noticed a trend of workers doing “rough cuts” instead of clean cuts.

“Residents have been understanding but are still upset because their rates and taxes havent been doing what theyre paying for as the municipality hasnt been delivering on its end of the deal,” Gouws said.

Municipal spokesperson Mthubanzi Mniki said the city had a grass-cutting contract in place but delays were due to supply chain management disagreements that emanated from the price adjustments.

“The general rate of inflation and other related factors increased. A contractor’s costs were likely to change.

“Within a contract, there is a supply chain process that looks at this matter.

“This has led to a serious backlog ... and we are trying our level best to catch up,” he said.



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