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JRA to roll-out non metal manhole covers


Cast iron and steel manhole covers, drains and gutters – which have for many years been targeted by scrap metal thieves and vandals, costing the City of Johannesburg millions of rands – are to be replaced with non-metal products.

This was confirmed this week by Johannesburg Member of the Mayoral Committee for Transport Councillor Christine Walters.

MMC Walters said the Johannesburg Roads Agency (JRA), the City’s roads infrastructure development and maintenance entity, would from the beginning of the new financial year on July 1 turn to materials such as ductile iron, plastic, fibreglass and polymer to cover manholes throughout the city and put an end to financial losses. In the 2013-2014 financial year alone, more than 3 200 cast iron and steel manhole covers were reported stolen, forcing JRA to replace them at a total cost R2.9 million.

According to Mpho Kau, acting Managing Director of JRA, the current manhole covers are targeted by thieves and vandals because of their resale value.

“The problem with this kind of theft is that it is global. It worsens when the price of scrap metal is high,” continued Kau.

“This spate of infrastructure theft and vandalism is direct sabotage and devaluation of the City’s infrastructure assets and poses a safety hazard to road users. Kau said the new materials weighed “considerably less” than the existing covers. The metal manhole covers currently in use weigh in excess of 140kg. The new, non-metal ones weigh three quarters less and “are much more robust in design,” Kau said.

“They will also carry the JRA-branded logo, have no significant resale value and comply with all relevant JRA and South African Bureau of Standards’ specifications.”

The JRA piloted the new manhole covers in selected areas and the results proved positive.

“The specification has been approved and we are now procuring the products,” Kau said.

The missing covers on walkways, streets and roads created a huge problem for pedestrians and other road users, including small children, said Kau. JRA barricades affected areas to protect the public as soon as it is notified of missing manhole covers.

Bertha Scheepers, Operations Manager in JRA’s Marketing and Communications DDepartment, said the rollout would officially commence in July and around the Johannesburg city centre. Kau condemned the illegal scrap metal dealers, saying they were complicit to what he termed “the increasing assault on the City’s infrastructure”.

Residents are urged to report acts of vandalism and theft to the City’s Call Centre on 0860 562 874 or approach the South African Police Service or the Johannesburg Metro Police Department.