Buffalo City Metro faces a public health time bomb as its pest control programme falters, leaving many areas of the municipality vulnerable to rat and fly infestations.
The BCM pest unit’s job is surveillance and treatment of rodents, cockroaches, fleas, mosquitoes, flies and bird lice in public spaces.
A health, public safety and emergency services report tabled before council recently revealed that staff shortages and budget constraints meant there was little to no efforts to control pest populations in some suburbs and villages.
These include Dimbaza, Tyutyu Village, King William’s Town, Mdantsane, Zwelitsha, Southernwood, Quigney, Orange Grove, Duncan Village and informal settlements.
The report revealed that BCM’s vector control unit only has six people who must tackle infestation in East London, Mdantsane and King William’s Town areas.
Since becoming a metro in 2011 the unit’s budget has remained static, despite the growing population, new informal settlements and residential areas added to the metro.
Acting head of health, public safety and emergency services Dr Ntobeko Stemele said in his report the unit had the responsibility of ensuring pest-free living environments for the citizens of BCM.
However, the report revealed how the unit could not properly carry out its duties.
Out of 50 wards only 12 wards were treated for mosquitoes, bees, cockroaches, rodents, and flies between April and June.
Stemele said due to staff shortages and budget constraints the unit could not:
lProvide the service to indigent citizens;
lDo serological testing (blood tests to diagnose diseases);
lDo vector-borne disease surveillance;
lDo vector and vector-borne disease awareness campaigns; and
lCould not cover all of BCM’s wards.
“The areas to be covered have increased since BCM became a metropolitan municipality but the budget for vector management has not been reviewed and remains the same and as a result pesticides are not always adequate,” said Stemele.
Opposition parties and ratepayers raised their concerns about rats in Duncan Village, Orange Grove, East London CBD, Quigney and Southernwood.
“This unacceptable situation is further aggravated by unreliable refuse collection across the metro, especially in the informal settlements where residents are forced to live alongside mountains of fetid decomposing rubbish, as well as the uncontrolled increase in the number of illegal dumps across all wards of the metro,” DA councillor Sue Bentley said.
EFF councillor and Orange Grove informal settlement resident Buyelwa Thwalingca said residents were terrorised by large rats in the area.
“Living conditions in the squatter camp are a mess, the toilets are not working and there are no dumping areas so even the air we breathe is polluted,” said Thwalingca.
BCM spokesman Samkelo Ngwenya did not reveal how many more staff members were needed, but did say the current staff were not equal to the desired number in terms of vacant funded or vacant unfunded posts.
He said the operational budget was R328044 and “the city is looking to secure funding to improve services towards the newly added communities”. — firstname.lastname@example.org