Municipal ‘War on Vandals’ a Farce – Editorial with Prof Jeff Robinson
The piece in The Citizen (19 August 2011) titled “R180 000 to clean up wall” once again tried to use gross figures to squeeze much needed support from the rate payers of the Durban Metro.
Read below what Durban Metro rate-payer, Professor Jeff Robinson of the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) Music Faculty, discovered when he dug a bit deeper into the issue of THE CITY SPENDING RATES MONEY ON VANDALISM. After reading about the incident involving the seven artists charged with MI2P (Malicious Intent To Property) Robinson has this to say:
“While I have clear and strong views on the absurdity of the police action, most of these have already been well articulated by other contributors. What I want to draw attention to is the gross INattention of our municipal law enforcement bodies to contraventions of municipal and national bylaws, policies and prohibitions that actually do have negative impacts, aesthetically and environmentally. To catch the culprits in these cases is dead-easy; there is no need for ‘special investigators’’’.
Firstly let us take the issue of advertising signage. The municipality has clear and unambiguous regulations in this regard, yet look at how many campaign posters from the 18 May elections can still be seen around Durban even though they were by law to have been removed no later than 14 days after the election (i.e. 1 June 2011). The remnants of many of these will be with us for a very long time given that two of the political parties chose to paste their posters to public walls and other surfaces with an adhesive. This is defined as ‘bill-sticking’ and is expressly prohibited in the eThekwini Municipality Advertising Signage Policy(2005). The prohibition on ‘bill-sticking’ applies to all forms of advertising and yet we find contraventions just about everywhere we turn in Durban. The accompanying photos were taken at or near the University of KwaZulu-Natal. Identifying the perpetrators is easy, but have any of them been charged or fined?
What is a far more serious ‘neglect of duty’ on the part of municipal law enforcement is the failure to bring to book contraveners of the Conservation of Agricultural Resources Act (1983) which makes clear that ‘Category 1’ invasive alien plants ‘may not occur on any land or inland water surface other than in biological control reserves’. Most people of oblivious of the degree of invasion by such plants and this is probably good news for the municipality given that it is the landowner guiltiest of contravening this regulation. Through neglect, large tracts of municipal land have become the hothouses from which the cancer proliferates. Just take a drive along Grosvenor Rd. (off Rick Turner) to get a sense of what I’m talking about. You can easily tick off at least 10 Category 1’s (e.g. Chromolaena, Lantana, Bugweed, Brazilian Pepper, Mexican Sunflower, Balloon Vine, Inkberry, Guava, etc.), not to mention the only somewhat less problematic Category 2s and 3s (Syringa, Jacaranda, False Umdoni, etc.). ”
Robinson has pointed out what many consider to be the “double-standards” or even lack of standards that the municipality has displayed in targeting these seven youth for their actions that fateful Sunday. One can see why many supporters of these artists believe that they have been abused as a collective soft-target in the municipalities much trumpeted “war on vandalism” that is apparently costing us all so much. It would be interesting to see this type of “zero tolerance” approach being applied to the perpetrators of the acts Robinson describes above.