Pun­ished for do­ing Sol’s work

Diamond Fields Advertiser - - NEWS - PATSY BEANGSTROM NEWS ED­I­TOR

WHILE lo­cal or­gan­i­sa­tions and busi­nesses have stepped into the void cre­ated by the Sol Plaatje Mu­nic­i­pal­ity’s ap­par­ent in­abil­ity to main­tain its fa­cil­i­ties and streets, the lo­cal au­thor­ity is hit­ting back.

The CC Rid­ers Mo­tor­cy­cle Club in Kim­ber­ley has for months been work­ing on try­ing to res­tore the city’s car­a­van park, which has been left in a state of ex­treme dis­re­pair as a re­sult of van­dal­ism and a lack of main­te­nance.

The fa­cil­ity has been closed for sev­eral months and in March the mu­nic­i­pal­ity with­drew its of­fi­cials for safety rea­sons.

In a re­port on the car­a­van park by the Di­rec­tor of Com­mu­nity Ser­vices, the mu­nic­i­pal­ity it­self ad­mit­ted that the car­a­van park had been em­bat­tled with many in­ci­dents of theft and van­dal­ism and visi­tors had stopped com­ing be­cause they were be­ing at­tacked and robbed.

Although at­tempts were made by the mu­nic­i­pal­ity to fix the fa­cil­ity and im­prove safety these failed as bur­glar proof­ing, Dev­ils’ fork pan­els, alarm sys­tems and elec­tri­cal ca­bles were stripped and stolen. There was also no wa­ter and elec­tric­ity as elec­tri­cal ca­bles, wa­ter pipes and taps had been stolen.

“The car­a­van park is be­ing in­vaded by crim­i­nals who have im­mensely dam­aged or im­paired the prop­erty, ren­der­ing it un­fit for recre­ational pur­poses and work con­di­tions for our em­ploy­ees,” the re­port stated.

The CC Rid­ers, who use the car­a­van park on an an­nual ba­sis to hold their bik­ers’ rally, have mean­while been try­ing for sev­eral months to en­gage the mu­nic­i­pal­ity to map a way for­ward that will se­cure the premises for visi­tors to the city. The rally, held around Novem­ber each year, sees a cash in­jec­tion of more than R1 mil­lion into the city’s econ­omy.

Chris Mpisi, from CC Rid­ers, said yes­ter­day that the club had sent nu­mer­ous let­ters to var­i­ous of­fi­cials at the mu­nic­i­pal­ity about the state of the car­a­van park and its fu­ture vi­a­bil­ity but had not re­ceived any re­sponse.

“The car­a­van park was lit­er­ally be­ing car­ried away – piece by piece. When the last por­tions of the roof were stolen we de­cided to in­ter­vene and, at our own cost, ap­pointed se­cu­rity of­fi­cials on a 24/7 ba­sis. By this stage, the fa­cil­ity was com­pletely di­lap­i­dated and, in the spirit of main­tain­ing our own in Kim­ber­ley – es­pe­cially as Sol Plaatje has a bad rep­u­ta­tion of main­tain­ing any­thing – we de­cided to step in.”

Mpisi said that the club ap­pointed con­trac­tors to un­der­take work that club mem­bers could not do them­selves. “It is still far away from ad­mit­ting visi­tors, but we were slowly get­ting there.”

The ceil­ing was re­paired and work started on re­paint­ing it. “Ev­ery­thing in the ceil­ing had been bro­ken. The elec­tri­cal ports at the car­a­van sites had been smashed, the toi­lets were bro­ken and club mem­bers stepped in to paint, var­nish the win­dows and even re­place the hand basins and turn the bath­rooms into show­ers af­ter the baths them­selves were smashed in an at­tempt to get to the cop­per pip­ing un­der­neath.

“To­gether with pro­vid­ing se­cu­rity, the club has spent thou­sands of rand on the fa­cil­ity.

“We were pre­pared to step in and try sal­vage what we could at our own cost – essen­tially to take own­er­ship as the mu­nic­i­pal­ity had ab­di­cated that re­spon­si­bil­ity.”

Af­ter nine months of si­lence – and ig­nor­ing at­tempts to open the chan­nel of com­mu­ni­ca­tion – the mu­nic­i­pal­ity last week con­tacted the club, stat­ing that they were on the premises il­le­gally and that their ac­tions were un­pro­fes­sional and ir­re­spon­si­ble.

Yes­ter­day, mu­nic­i­pal work­ers ar­rived at the park and have started re­pair­ing the perime­ter fence as well as fix­ing up the of­fice.

“No one is talk­ing to us – there is just lots of ar­ro­gance and no ap­pre­ci­a­tion for the work that we have un­der­taken. We have been beg­ging the mu­nic­i­pal­ity for months to meet with us to dis­cuss the car­a­van park so that it can be­come sus­tain­able. What sad­dens us is that while we have been rep­ri­manded and re­minded that what we are do­ing is un­law­ful, noth­ing is said about the van­dals who came in and broke down the fa­cil­ity – that’s okay. We are be­ing made out to be the vil­lains.”

Mpisi added that the club was now afraid that they would be put out. “We are here and we will stay here. The mu­nic­i­pal­ity has three op­tions – they can re­im­burse us for the hun­dreds of thou­sands of rand we have al­ready spent, but then they must en­sure that they have a sus­tain­able plan in place and that they pro­vide se­cu­rity; or they must agree that we work to­gether to en­sure the fu­ture vi­a­bil­ity of the fa­cil­ity; or they must agree to lease it to the club.”

Mu­nic­i­pal spokesper­son, Sello Mat­sie, said yes­ter­day that res­i­dents should un­der­stand that de­spite their good in­ten­tions, they needed to fol­low proper pro­ce­dures.

He added that it was il­le­gal for a mu­nic­i­pal­ity to lease mu­nic­i­pal-owned prop­erty with­out first ad­ver­tis­ing its in­ten­tions and giv­ing other res­i­dents, who may be in­ter­ested, an op­por­tu­nity to throw their hats in the ring.

“The fact that an or­gan­i­sa­tion is on site does not make it le­gal. We ac­knowl­edge that they are en­thu­si­as­tic and have good in­ten­tions and we are not say­ing that they should be shown the door. How­ever, they need to go through the proper chan­nels.

Mat­sie con­ceded that the mu­nic­i­pal­ity’s Parks and Recre­ation Sec­tion had, over the past year, ex­pe­ri­enced im­mense loss as a re­sult of theft and van­dal­ism of mu­nic­i­pal prop­er­ties.

“All fa­cil­i­ties lack se­cu­rity ser­vices and most of the fa­cil­i­ties that are of­ten tar­geted are in re­mote ar­eas. These fa­cil­i­ties in­clude the com­mu­nity halls (West End Club and Abantu), swim­ming pools (Galeshewe and Karen Muir), ceme­ter­ies (Phutanang, West End, Ra­mat­shela and Rood­e­pan), De Beers Sta­dium, King Ge­orge Ar­ti­fi­cial Turf and the car­a­van park, which is now fall­ing apart as a re­sult of theft and van­dal­ism con­stantly tak­ing place.”

Ac­cord­ing to Mat­sie, a meet­ing was held with the CC Rid­ers chair­per­son and the then Act­ing Chief: Parks and Recre­ation, Deon Moeti, who in­formed the club of the need to fol­low proper coun­cil pro­ce­dures to ap­ply for a lease con­tract.

“A for­mal let­ter dated Au­gust 1 2018 was for­warded to the bik­ers club in­form­ing them that their re­quest would be pro­ce­du­rally dealt with at the ap­pli­ca­ble com­mit­tee meet­ings and that they would be in­formed once a de­ci­sion had been made.

“It was with great sad­ness to dis­cover that the car­a­van park had been il­le­gally in­vaded by CC Rid­ers in Au­gust 2018, to a point that the mu­nic­i­pal main­te­nance per­son­nel were de­nied ac­cess into the fa­cil­ity to re­pair the fa­cil­ity in prepa­ra­tion for the sea­son.

“An ap­point­ment was agreed upon by the CC Rid­ers vhair­per­son and the Chief: Parks and Recre­ation, Tumelo Maro­pong, to meet on Septem­ber 25. The chair­per­son failed to hon­our his own re­quest for a meet­ing with­out any apol­ogy.

“An agree­ment was again reached with CC Rid­ers to post­pone a meet­ing that was sched­uled on Oc­to­ber 5 to al­low all rel­e­vant stake­hold­ers to be in­volved to take this mat­ter for­ward.”

Mat­sie, how­ever, did not in­di­cate whether the car­a­van park would be re­opened and if so, when, or whether se­cu­rity would be pro­vided on the site to pre­vent it be­ing tar­geted again by van­dals.

He also did not re­spond to re­quests for com­ments re­gard­ing the large num­ber of mu­nic­i­pal-owned fa­cil­i­ties in the city that are now to­tally un­us­able and the ap­par­ent un­will­ing­ness of the mu­nic­i­pal­ity to al­low pri­vate or­gan­i­sa­tions to step in and run them.

BACK ON THE JOB: Pic­ture: So­raya Crowie

Mu­nic­i­pal work­ers have started erect­ing a fence around the car­a­van park.

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