We need better leaders

Edward Hector, Milnerton

The recent flare-up in Joe Slovo and surrounds in Milnerton is not unexpected to someone like myself who has worked in the area for over 10 years and uses all the roads around the area daily.

This flare-up could be prevented through better political leadership and consistent law enforcement.

Recently we saw a major blitz on taxis which many road users would welcome.

From early morning, the ghost squad, supported by branded City of Cape Town traffic vehicles, were pulling off and impounding taxis.

Not soon thereafter we started to see a backlash, and residents in these areas who are dependent on taxis started to use the only means of protest open to them: the burning of tyres and stoning of cars.

But what is wrong with this whole scenario one might ask? Surely we all welcome the enforcement of traffic laws.

I would argue that City officials have taken the wrong approach to traffic enforcement.

A heavy-handed approach to enforcement for one day, then going back to normal where virtually no officers are seen on this route is the core problem.

Anyone using these roads daily will see taxis driving in emergency lanes, jumping red robots, driving in MyCiTi lanes and totally ignoring more complex traffic signals at bigger intersections with directional arrows.

What we need is daily low-profile enforcement in these areas consistently.

Currently, the probability of being caught breaking the law during the morning peak hour traffic is so low that drivers take the risk. We need to reverse this mindset by ensuring the probability of getting caught increases year on year because more officers are assigned to these problem routes. A once-off blitz only works for that day – drivers know that.

The areas I drive in like Joe Slovo, Marconi Beam and Phoenix are powder kegs waiting to explode, and they do every now and then. It may be easy to blame the residents for the problems in these areas, but I blame poor political leadership.

These areas are developed as low-income “formal” areas. They are not informal settlements.

In order to maintain the standards in these areas, they must be policed and there must be law enforcement. What we have seen is the opposite – more and more people moving into the area and more taxis operating in the area.

These low-income areas should be model developments and should not be allowed to turn into slums.

Low-cost housing was developed in a node close to an industrial area where there are work opportunities and close to the transport artery of Koeberg Road as well as a MyCiTi bus route. Two schools serve this community, a community hall is available as well as a clinic.

People will migrate to these areas because of the proximity to work opportunities and overcrowding causes problems.

Protest action is not new to the areas as various infrastructure has been set alight and MyCiTi bus stops vandalised. The area is fast declining into a slum, with informal structures built on the pavement and car washes in the street. Rubbish is dumped on open areas close to a children’s park and not a month goes by when sewage is not overflowing close to a school in Democracy Way.

Taxis ignore all traffic rules and drug addicts can be seen shooting up on Omuramba Road on most days leading to the only conclusion that drugs are readily available in this area.

There is a well resourced police station within 2km of these areas but so little policing of the area.

This little area of Joe Slovo/ Marconi Beam / Phoenix is a microcosm of the society we are trying to build by developing low-income residential areas close to economic opportunities.

If politicians cannot ensure that a small area like this is properly managed, by-laws enforced, overcrowding and resultant sewerage failure prevented and informal structures prohibited, these models of development will turn into slums and fail.

I don’t blame the residents; I blame the politicians who allow these areas to decline to a point of failure.

I have never feared driving in the area but for the first time in 10 years, I made a conscious decision not to drive down Democracy Way towards Freedom Way.

As someone who works in the building environment, I see a probability of over 90% of enforcement of building regulations in the commercial office environment. But driving through Joe Slovo, I see the exact opposite: probably 10% of by-law enforcement.

Consistent enforcement is the only way to achieve success. These are political problems that require political solutions.