From Motherwell to Walmer, fed-up residents across the metro roll up their sleeves to clean up the mess

Broken city

If the municipality can’t do it we will.

That is the word from scores of fed-up Nelson Mandela Bay residents who are fixing potholes, cutting grass, removing rubbish and painting road markings themselves.

For months residents watched as weeds started peeping through pavements, grass grew long, road markings faded and illegal dumpsites grew in the face of municipal inaction.

Then they took action.

The metro’s grass-cutting contract expired at the end of January, resulting in public facilities across the city  becoming increasingly unkempt and dangerous.

On Wednesday, municipal spokesperson Mamela Ndamase said acting city manager Anele Qaba had signed a contract with grass cutters.

“The service is ordinarily provided by external service providers and, as everyone is aware, grass-cutting was not an essential service during the Covid-19 declaration.

“While that was the case, the contracts we had with those service providers expired.

“There is already a process under way to appoint service providers to render the service.

“The city is involved in an effort to expedite the process.

“We [are] hoping within the next few days the matter will be resolved,” Ndamase said.

Qaba on Friday said the metro had failed to renew several contracts due to delays ranging from objections and investigation to interdicts and resultant court proceedings.

“In some instances, the awarding of contracts is delayed because they are sent back for re-evaluation by the tender objections committee.

“In cases where residents were awaiting service delivery even before the lockdown, the service delivery may have been delayed by contracts whose awarding process was delayed for similar reasons.”

Qaba did not have specific details and dates of contracts that had lapsed, but said there were several.

“There is an ongoing supply chain process, but I have devised ways to get grass-cutter [services] while we finalise the process, because this is an emergency.

“The directorate is busy allocating contractors,” he said.

The Walmer Renewal Association — already trying to maintain the Walmer, Baakens Valley and St George’s Park areas at its own cost — has been cutting grass, painting road markings, filling in potholes, and clearing rubble and rubbish in the areas.

The association of 20 members was formed on Mandela Day, July 18,  last year.

They pay out of their own pockets and collect donations to buy equipment and hire casual labourers twice a week.

Operations manager John Whitfield said residents had asked them to do more cleaning after they painted the Walmer town hall gates and cleaned up the Walmer Kiddies Park as their 2019 Mandela Day contribution.

More recently, the association mowed the Walmer post office lawn and trimmed the walkway.

They repainted road markings in Walmer as well as parking lines at the Walmer library.

“We don’t just take over and do the work without approaching the municipality.

“We contact them and ask them to do the work, and when they fail we offer to do it ourselves.

“St George’s Park was a disgusting mess and we collected about 40 bags of rubbish around the Mannville Theatre and the art museum,” Whitfield said.  

On Friday, two hired contractors filled in a trench on the lawn in front of the Walmer town hall.

In Missionvale, unemployed resident Christopher Smith, 20, borrows a wheelbarrow and travels 10-15km a day to collect grit to patch potholes.

Smith started doing this with three friends two years ago and has since been joined by more residents.

On Friday they were patching up the main road where running water had settled from a burst water pipe.

“I noticed people were complaining that potholes were damaging their cars, especially after it had rained, and decided to do something about it,” Smith said.

“More people have joined in, and we look around to see where potholes have formed and need filling.

“We do it every Monday and Friday.”

Disturbed by the worsening state of New Brighton during the lockdown, a community youth group raised funds to buy refuse bags for litter collection and borrowed equipment to trim weeds along Mandela and Mahlangu streets.

They are now transforming an illegal dumpsite into a park.

“We have collected old tyres and painted them in bright colours so we can place them as makeshift chairs for people to sit on,” community member Anele Zephe said.

New Brighton residents use old tyres to surround a dumping site and transform it into a park
GETTING STUCK IN: New Brighton residents use old tyres to surround a dumping site and transform it into a park

Zephe said the neighbourhood had become increasingly dirty during the lockdown with no municipal officials in sight.

“It’s unfair, we have a municipal office that is meant to take care of these things, yet we must choose between living in dumps and doing their jobs ourselves.

“The root of all these problems is the [alleged] corruption in those offices,” Zephe said.

Motherwell artist Sakumzi Nyendwana said he and fellow artists had taken it upon themselves to transform an illegal dump site.

They started the work before the lockdown.

The aim, he said, was to make the township a desired tourist destination that could contribute to the city’s economy.

“We realised a long time ago that waiting for our municipality to care about the townships yields no positive results.

“They say they want the same thing — to make townships attractive to tourists — but when it comes to doing the work they aren’t forthcoming.

“As residents who take pride in our townships; we feel embarrassed to host artists from overseas in a place like this.” 

The field is the second dumpsite they have transformed.

In Wards 35 and 37 in the northern areas, community members have started gardening, tree-planting and grass-cutting projects to keep their neighbourhoods clean.

Ward 35 councillor Helga Van Staaden said the community had been proactive, but more needed to be done.

In Ward 37, resident Leon Boyce is transforming a dumpsite by painting rocks and placing large plants to beautify the area.

Members of the Ward 35 co-op team are trimming overgrown grass on the pavements in Finnis Street, Frolick Street and Harker Crescent.

The same has been done in Bloemendal’s William Slammert Drive.

Van Staaden said illegal dumping was a major health threat in the northern areas.

“More needs to be done to educate our people about dumping,” she said.

“Nothing is happening about the mess and we have many residents who are either unemployed or retired, and are just willing to do things themselves.

“But it would be nice to get some kind of help from the municipality with the small projects residents have started themselves,” she said.

Summerstrand residents have formed project groups to clean their suburb.

Residents and guesthouse owners donated money for grass cutting.

Another group of 24 Summerstrand residents arranged to have the grass in parks in McWilliams and Sharwood roads cut.

Project head Sean Tappan said they would repaint faded road marking next week.

“We have decided, as concerned residents, to tackle this problem ourselves while the municipality sorts out its internal politics and starts with the service delivery we are being charged for every month.

“If this continues, the residents [will] seek legal counsel to withhold our rates and taxes to cover the costs,” Tappan said.


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