Wednesday, July 23, 2008

It’s not our fault, says council

Foreigners may find this hard to believe but in South Africa, anything, absolutely ANYTHING that can be turned into value, will be stolen.

Few people put metal street numbers on their houses because those are
ripped off for scrap metal.

Then we tried plastic numbers and that did not last because they would pull them off to check they were not metal so you’d find numbers missing or broken.

Now most places resort to painting names and numbers on the wall. How ridiculous is that?

Forget having street lights on your front boundary walls or new plants (I’ve had trees ripped out of the ground outside my gate
planted the day before).

And lately water meters are targeted and so it goes on. If it can be sold, scrapped or melted down for 50 cents or more, the stuff is gone.

For a long time, besides stealing copper wire which is a huge industry, manhole covers have been removed as soon as they were put down as the story below shows - even the temporary cover was stolen overnight.

Several people and kids have been injured and killed falling down the traps. The councils promised years ago to install tamper-proof covers and the few that I saw were solid looking contraptions but it seems once the outcry died down, the momentum was forgotten and we have this latest tragedy again.

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The family of a toddler who drowned in a sewer is blaming the municipality for not ensuring that manholes are always covered. But the municipality says it can’t keep up with the thieves who steal the metal for scrap.

Even the manhole cover that was used to close the opening that little Delano Goeiman, three, was pushed into on Sunday, has already collapsed.

“The lid was a temporary measure but someone stole the steel ring around it,” municipality spokesman Zweli Dlamini said.

He said the biggest problem “is that people steal sewer lids and sell them to scrap dealers”.

“We try and monitor manholes regularly,” he said. “Most of the priority areas are places where we have a problem with the stealing of lids.

“Residential areas where main sewer lines run are also a priority.” Dlamini said the council was unaware of the fact that there were three uncovered manholes in the Ramaphosa informal settlement.

By yesterday the lid that officials placed on the hole Delano had fallen into had collapsed because of the stolen ring and the other two manholes were not covered either.

Delano’s body was recovered yesterday from the Kliprivier sewer, 30km from where he fell into a manhole on Sunday, allegedly after being pushed in by a playmate .

This is not the first time that a child has died because of uncovered manholes. In 2004 Karabo Gwala, four, of Dube in Soweto, died after accidentally falling into an exposed manhole while playing with a friend. His body was found three days later at the Olifantsvlei treatment plant in Nancefield after being dragged through the sewage system to a spot 10km from where he had fallen in.

Delano’s grandmother, Sophia Femmer, 47, said: “Those manholes have long been standing there uncovered, waiting for a tragedy to happen. Even had it not been Delano any child or person could have fallen into the manhole.

“Our municipality is a failure,” she said.

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