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​A tour by City officials of suburbs in Region E was an eye-opener, with the head of development planning coming face to face with social concerns.
RIVERPARK, a suburb a stone’s throw from Alexandra, is fast deteriorating, the portfolio head of development planning, Ruby Mathang, learned on a tour of the area.

MMC Ruby MathangMMC Ruby Mathang on a tour of Region E Mathang found out that backyard shacks were mushrooming in the suburb, some encroaching on to pavements, an infringement of the by-laws.

Taking the official through the suburb, the councillor for Ward 81, Margaret Radebe, said some residents used nearby bushes close to the Jukskei River to relieve themselves. Also, there was serious illegal dumping in the area, leading to blocked storm water drains.

Speaking later after the tour, Mathang said: “I was really depressed for a moment when we were moving around there … If we leave this area, within the next five years it will be like Alex or even worse. There is an element there that I could detect of not caring.”

Alexandra, popularly known as Alex, has a serious problem of overcrowding with all its backyard shacks. Through the Alexandra Renewal Project, the City is de-densifying the suburb by moving people to new housing projects nearby.

Riverpark was one of the areas in Region E visited by Mathang on Wednesday, 16 May. The oversight tour was spearheaded by the enthusiastic regional director, Liziwe Ntshinga-Makoro, and other City officials.

Mathang suggested there should more community involvement in trying to turnaround the suburb. “We must have workshops and share everything with them,” he added. He also recommended asking councillors in the area to form structures to monitor what was happening on the ground and focus on the rehabilitation of Riverpark.

On the way to Riverpark, the group visited Orange Grove, along Louis Botha Avenue. They found a lot of liquor outlets, some illegal, and the law requiring at least 500 metres between outlets was ignored. Another problem was the growing number of places of worship.

HouseholdsThe City advises households not to break town planning by-lawsThe Winners Chapel, for example, is sandwiched between residential flats and is not sound proofed. In addition, all the churches cause a lot of traffic on the road during church hours. Mathang had a chat with the man in charge and urged him to follow the City’s by-laws. It was agreed that the matter would be followed up.

Next stop was Fairwood on Ninth Avenue. A derelict house, burned in a house fire, has turned into a haven for criminals, and unknown people have invaded the ruin. The City was granted a demolition permit by the High Court, but it has not been executed because of a lack of funds.

Out the box
Mathang encouraged the region to think out of the box and come up with a less expensive method of demolishing the house. “We must shift from doing things the traditional way,” he told City staff.

Travelling further northeast into Linksfield, the delegation stopped at Voodoo Lounge, where residents complained about the noise coming from the premises. The owner had a lengthy conversation with the portfolio head regarding such issues.

From there, the bus joined the N3 heading back north, to Riverpark. From the township the tour went to Marlboro South. On the corner of Third and Fifth Avenues, Mvelezo Recycling is directly opposite a private steel company.

The owner of the company wants to be moved from the location and be given another one by the City. He claimed it was not safe and that no security company would work for him as many security guards had been attacked. Courier companies would also not deliver to or for him.

This area is full of abandoned factories that people invade and make their homes, one of which is near Mvelezo Recycling. The factory is illegally occupied and contains condensed shacks that are said to be a health and safety risk.

An abandoned construction siteAn abandoned construction site in SandtonThe last stop was the corner of Fifth Avenue and Katherine Street in Sandton, where there is a deep hole, an abandoned construction site. The hole was dug in 2007 and since then there has not been any progress.

Mathang said that the City could not just sit there and watch. Although it was a private matter, he demanded City played a role in the matter. They might have not heard anything bad happening at the hole; however, it was open to many criminal possibilities.

In the briefing before the departure, Mathang said the aim of the tour was not to solve problems on the spot. Rather, it was to help make informed decision. Visiting areas was not act of tourism, but it was to understand the reality on the ground and do something about it, he explained.

They went out to note, to observe, to take what was happening and then come back to be hands on. “It is the responsibility of government to make a different in those areas.”

Mathang said the oversight tours were very important. “They help some of us that are in our nice offices at least to be on the ground and see what is happening and getting to see challenges so that once we sit in those many meetings one can speak with confidence.”

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