Phoenix down in the dumps

A faulty water meter in Phoenix spills water into the street.

Phoenix residents have accused the City of Cape Town of leaving their neighbourhood to rot.

Those who have lived in the area for almost two decades say service delivery is non-existent and Phoenix, instead of rising from the ashes like the eponymous bird of Greek mythology, is being left to slide into a permanent state of neglect.

Leaking water pipes, broken fire hydrants, potholes, faulty street lights and vagrancy are just some of the problems plaguing the area.

Phoenix falls under Ward 4, which currently has no councillor after the DA’s Tando Jafta was suspended.

Andrew Mentor, who has lived in Phoenix for 19 years, is the captain of one of the three neighbourhood block watches in the area.

He said it was a shame ratepayers had to “fight for services”.

He gave Tabletalk a list of reference numbers for complaints he and other residents had logged with the City – all of which, he said, had been ignored.

“Complaints have been logged, reference numbers have been obtained and that is the end of the process,” said Mr Mentor.

“The City of Cape Town does not care about how the area looks or what is happening as long as they receive our money. They have a beautiful slogan that says, ‘The City works for you.’ This may be so for some of Phoenix’s neighbouring areas, like Joe Slovo or Milnerton Central, but not for Phoenix.”

He said a recent incident in which a neighbour’s water meter was leaking once again showed the City’s inadequacy in dealing with Phoenix’s concerns.

“The meter is on council property. I phoned the call centre on Wednesday February 22 at about 7am to report the leak. On Thursday, the water was still running, so I sent an email to the mayor’s office the same day. That afternoon, I phoned her office to enquire about the complaint. It was then forwarded to the relevant department, and 30 minutes later a team was dispatched to assess the situation and fix the problem. We pay for these services so why must we go to extremes to get the services,” said Mr Mentor.

He added that a City worker had damaged a fire hydrant’s lid almost a year ago, but it had still not been replaced.

Russel Capes, chairman of the Phoenix Neighbourhood Watch, said Phoenix had “topped the City’s areas of decay”.

The City had not upgraded roads in years and it had ignored urgent appeals for speed humps.

“I am blaming 90 percent of Phoenix’s problems on the City. Serious C3 complaints are not attended to. Several people have been killed in the last two to three years in Freedom Way, but our call for speed bumps has not been heard. We still don’t have a MyCiTi bus in Phoenix. Freedom Way is a mess with the litter and illegal driving,” said Mr Capes.

Another resident, who wanted to remain anonymous, said he had called the City to report water waste but nothing had been done about it.

“There are two illegal car washers, one in Atlas Drive and one in Democracy Drive. I reported them to the City and got a reference number but nothing has been done. They are still operating,” he said.

Phoenix Ratepayers’ Association (PRA) chairwoman Ursula Marshall said that 23 years ago residents had bought into a “gated community concept” when they bought in Phoenix.

“In 1997, Joe Slovo RDP houses were built between Democracy Drive and Omuramba Road and we were then both surrounded by factories which were not on the plans that we bought from. Every year Phoenix Ratepayers’ Association asked for the same upgrades over 20 years, and every ward councillor ignored us.

“Phoenix children pay transport costs to go to school as far away as Plumstead, wherever the parents can afford the school fees. The Milnerton schools are too expensive for these low-income earners,” said Ms Marshall.

Marconi Beam Primary, the one school in the area parents could afford to send their children to, only catered for pupils with Xhosa as their first language, she said.

Jessica Shelver, spokeswoman for Education MEC Debbie Schafer, said school governing bodies had the right to decide on the language of instruction at schools.

“Marconi Beam Primary is predominantly Xhosa but also introduced an English class per grade three years ago. The department will work with schools to respond to changing needs appropriately, while respecting the language choices of all parents,” said Ms Shelver.

Mayoral committee member for area north, Suzette Little, said the City made “every effort” to allocate resources in a way that was pro-poor, but some areas had very high levels of theft and vandalism, and the City couldn’t replace stolen hydrant covers, valves and cables at the rate they were being stolen.

Residents, she said, needed to “take ownership of their infrastructure” by reporting vandals and thieves.

“The vast majority of these crimes go unreported, and the lack of consequences can only embolden the criminals,” she said. The City was also tackling cleansing in Joe Slovo and Phoenix, but residents also had play their part.

“In many areas, residents litter without thought, and this means that the area does not stay clean for very long,” she said.

The City would follow up on the illegal car washes, but Ms Little noted that informal car washes were permitted as long as they used buckets instead of hoses.