Fixing potholes

Residents from Brooklyn, Dunoon and Joe Slovo say that they have heard enough lies from the City of Cape Town and won’t be holding their breath for things to get better.

The City of Cape Town is getting road crews back to work to repair potholes that have proliferated under lockdown, but residents in Brooklyn, Dunoon and Joe Slovo fear wealthy neighbourhoods will take first priority.

Angus McKenzie, chairman of the City’s transport portfolio, said the transport directorate had spent R43 million on fixing more than 17 000 potholes across the city from the beginning of July last year up to the start of lockdown in March, but the Covid-19 confinement restrictions and the winter weather had stalled further projects.

However, the easing of lockdown restrictions meant more staff were returning to work and repair projects were resuming again, Mr McKenzie said.

“With the levels lowering, depots have returned to 70% capacity and more are expected to return in the coming weeks.”

The transport directorate was now clearing backlogs, Mr McKenzie said.

Mayor Dan Plato said since the start of June the City had spent more than R12 million on fixing over 4 500 potholes and attending to blocked stormwater catch pits, flooding and missing stormwater covers.

“General maintenance and repairs of our roads have been severely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.

“I want to assure residents that we are doing our utmost to clear the backlogs and to keep to our routine road maintenance schedules as best we can, amid the health and safety protocols related to the pandemic.”

Mr Plato said: “My office is attending to this matter, and I am getting regular feedback from the maintenance teams across the city to monitor the progress.”

However, the Brooklyn, Dunoon and Joe Slovo residents say these efforts seldom benefit their communities.

The Brooklyn, Ysterplaat and Rugby Residents’ Association says none of the money the City says it has spent appears to have reached their community.

The association’s chairwoman, Fay Vogel, said: “I feel like the City is just using this lockdown as an excuse for their years of incompetence. They are not pulling their weight.

“We often have to hound the local councillor so he puts pressure on the City for anything to be addressed in this area. Do you think the City would let things like missing manhole covers, potholes and informal traders who have no permits fly in more affluent areas? We also pay taxes and rates.”

Thembinkosi Hlati, who has lived in Joe Slovo for 15 years, said the City neglected the neighbourhood.

“It’s well documented that our community faces many issues. But these issues could be solved if the City would stop using every excuse under the sun, even going as far as blaming the residents for the problems.

“Yes, we have bad apples here that have no regard for the community and just dump their rubbish anywhere, steal manhole covers and other things. But the City has a big responsibility to lead by example. They should be doing all they can to fix the problems that are within their power and encourage the community to back them.”

Nomveliso Simelane, from Dunoon, said she would like to know where the City was spending money.

“I hear them speaking of R43 million and R12 million, but I wonder how much of that went into Dunoon. Show us where this money went because I doubt any of that was used here.

“I remember last year, the City did a whole pothole fixing drive. I remember how we questioned how they prioritise other areas over others. I wish I was exaggerating, but it seems like every single road in Dunoon has either potholes, a burst drain, illegal dumping or another issue. So we aren’t even excited to hear these plans by the City to do this repairing project.”

On top of the road maintenance and potholes, Mr Plato said the City had spent R21.5 million in the past 18 months on revamping a drop-off facility in Retreat.

And R110 million to R120 million was budgeted for the clearing of illegal dumping hot spots each year across the city, Mr Plato said.

“We need to ramp up our efforts to work through backlogs and ensure our residents receive the quality of service delivery that Cape Town is known for,” Mr Plato said.

Tabletalk was unable to speak to the Ward 55 councillor, Fabian Ah-Sing, as he is on leave. By the time this issue went to print, the City of Cape Town had not responded to emailed questions about the allegations that wealthier neighbourhoods took first priority.