Can South African opposition parties really make a difference?

17 February 2013

It’s common knowledge that many South African government departments are in dire straits – suffering from skills losses, infrastructure decay, corruption and other challenges.  A question I often ask to members of opposition parties is “if you took over tomorrow, could you really make a difference to water resource management, given that you might be inheriting a dysfunctional operation?”.  I have yet to receive a response to this.  The DA does, however, have a better than half-decent strategy document that seems to have  been compiled circa 2008 or thereabouts.  This shows that they have been listening to some of the key issues that have been raised.

Here is a lesser example of a simple issue that, 25 years since it was first raised, has yet to be resolved.  In Somerset West, near Cape Town, there is a steep suburban road, with a gradient of 11%.  Excessive speed on this road is common, with the Cape Town City Council having admitted – ten years ago – that in excess of 85% of peak hour users, more than 1000 cars per hour, exceed a speed limit of 70 kms per hour!  Despite this admission, residents were accused of exaggerating the problem.  Furthermore, the road has been characterized as a Class 4 collector road, i.e. one devoted to the bulk movement of urban traffic into and out of the urban area – this despite a traffic engineer having protested that the road is distinctly unsuited for the purpose – in specific that the geometrics and gradient did not meet the requirements for a Class 4 road – with a 5% gradient being the typical maximum for high use roads.  Circa 1990 most residents had not been informed of any process to reclassify the road.  The only ones who were aware were people involved with the process, such as the aforementioned traffic engineer who happened to also be a resident!

Traffic conditions have since become much worse, exacerbated by the moronic driving habits of South African roadusers – who seem to believe they can drive fast in any street except the one they live in.  In this particular road, lives have been lost, trucks become lodged in houses and living there has become generally unpleasant.

Truck embedded in house at the bottom of the hill. December 2011

Truck embedded in house at the bottom of the hill. December 2011 (Source: Cape Argus).  The same house was also partially-destroyed by a truck in 1995.

Complaints about the speeding appeared in the press from 1988.  In 2003, the majority of residents signed a petition requesting that something be done.  This was directed to the then-ANC managed City Council – but the then ANC Mayoral Member for Transport  rejected the DAs submission which, incidentally, was echoed by all other opposition parties in Council.

Despite requests for speed calming measures, these were denied on the basis that the road is too steep and that traffic calming will make it more dangerous!  Bizarre logic but there it is.

The ANC’s former control of Cape Town has long since been replaced by the Democratic Alliance – whose representative Councillor claimed would rectify the problem once they took over. Well, the residents are still waiting – nothing has been done, not even a permanent camera – at  the time denied on the basis that it would be too expensive!  Permanent cameras (the road is allegedly too steep to use mobile cameras with safety…) would substantially improve the situation overnight.

At the time of the aforementioned petition, a City Council staffer from the Helderberg Administration, confided that the road conditions would degrade to the point where it would no longer be suited for residential use, and become lined with business premises.  This alteration has already commenced.

The residents still await the Democratic Alliance actually doing something.  However, thusfar they have done as much as the ANC, i.e. nothing in ten years!

(all facts in this article are contained in written documentation).

Latest Incident:  During the night of 23/24 February 2013, a car ascending the road was travelling too fast to negotiate the final bend just before a 4-way stop.  The car continued straight ahead across the oncoming lane, mounted the opposite sidewalk and crashed through a concrete barrier, coming to a halt some 50 meters further on.  It is not known if there were any injuries or fatalities, although this is assumed given police presence at the site some 18 hours later.

Update: This matter was brought to the attention of the DA Ward Councillor, Ms Benedicta van Minnen, on 23 February 2013.  No response as of 28 Feb.

More updates:  Cllr Van Minnen responded on 3 March 2013 to report that she is working on this.  Apparently the Roads Department in Cape Town oppose taking any measures, but maybe considering a traffic circle at Dummer Street (!) – I wonder what these officials are smoking – a traffic circle at the bottom of a super steep, super-fast hill – at the intersection where people died before it became a 4-way stop.  Sell your property while you can, the DA or anyone else is not going to help!

Further updates: Now a year on (2014) and the same old same old:  Efforts to manage traffic in what has become one of Somerset West’s busiest roads remain non-existent.  We now sit with more than a decade of inaction, in this the province that the DA maintain they manage so well (all blah blah blah but no action).  Oh well… it’s all politics!  Remember, this problem has only been around for 25 years now!


3 Responses to Can South African opposition parties really make a difference?

  1. Benedicta Van Minnen says:

    If ou read my weekly newsletters that are circulated electronically you would be aware of the work that is being done on the issue of speeding on this road. This includes the assessments being done on a circle at Dummer Road, looking at extra signage, and the ongoing work Traffic is doing combating speeding.

    • Bill Harding says:

      People who have lived in Irene Avenue for 30-odd years know that nothing has been or is being done to manage the speeding problem. The notion of a traffic circle at Dummer Street is probably the dumbest solution ever proposed – as it will simply take away the compulsory stop and make the road even faster. “looking at extra signage” ??? How would this make any difference in a country where road instructions are wilfully ignored by so many? This issue was brought to the DA many many years ago with no result whatsoever.

    • Vicky Liebenberg says:

      Benedicta, I am Vicky and the photo with the truck was our home, we moved about 7 months ago.

      The comment you made about working on assesments being done and extra signage was made in 2011 as well.

      I really feel sorry for the parents that has lost their children because of that road. Young School children that died and is still being honoured by flowers years later.

      Those days when the truck hit our house we asked for concrete barriers at least, just something that would help. We were told that they were not in the business of protecting private property.

      There were concrete barriers just dumped in the field next to the house that some company dumped there, but they couldnt be put in front of our house.

      This whole thing is pathetic and I am sure that 15 years from now it would still be exactly the same.

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