Open spaces across the city are overrun with bushes and long grass yet newly ordered bush-clearing and grass-cutting tools are gathering dust in the offices of ward councillors because the tools have not had their barcodes registered on the municipality’s asset register.
In Nahoon, Vincent, Gonubie and Beacon Bay, the ward councillors used their ward-based funding to purchase bush-clearing and grass-cutting tools including; brush cutters, pulp pruners and chainsaws.
The equipment arrived almost seven months ago but the councillors have been unable to use it without the tools undergoing asset marking (barcoding).
Councillor Geoff Walton said the assets were not barcoded because purchased under the operating budget and not the capital budget.
This means they were not classified as assets, and the finance asset department had no knowledge of them for insurance.
To reclassify them will require that the expenditure be transferred from the operating budget (in the financial year 2022/23) to the capital budget.
Walton said this issue was raised by the DA in the finance portfolio committee where it was noted with concern and received for the attention of the municipality’s chief financial officer.
“These ward assets were selected by the community to ensure that there was always equipment available in that ward to carry out grass cutting and bush clearing but now they cannot be used for this purpose.”
The tools were purchased from the ward-based funding for 2022/23 to assist the municipality in addressing the backlog of services across the city that dates to 2019.
Without having the equipment barcoded, the ward councillors have been unable to arrange training for their bush-clearing teams to use the equipment.
Gonubie ward councillor Valerie Knoetze said the municipal department responsible did not have the equipment.
The ward councillors say the overgrown bushes create safety and security risks that have contributed to house burglaries, cable theft, drug dealing and illicit activities.
Ward councillor Jason MacDowell said his ward had become a haven for squatting and illegal dumping.
Residents in Vincent said the lack of bush clearing and grass cutting had made them vulnerable to wildfires, decreased property values, contributed to a sense of neglect and deterioration and obstructed security cameras and surveillance.
Vincent resident Peter Barnes said that in four years he had never seen the bushes cleared unless it was by the community.
To tackle these issues, Barnes and others formed a Vincent Community Watch whose efforts so far in collaboration with Red Alert, had resulted in a 50% drop in crime in the area, according to SAPS statistics.
In Cambridge, residents came together every Sunday to clear overgrown bushes near Highgate Hotel.
One resident said: “We have concluded that since the municipality won’t cut down the bushes, we are going to do it ourselves.”
Rhino Industrial Park owner Brian van Niekerk said that bush clearing and grass cutting was among many missing services which cost him R200,000 a month and had decreased tenant interest in his property.
A municipal infrastructure services report from October last year indicated that illegal dumping encouraged by the lack of bush clearing and grass cutting caused solid waste to enter the stormwater systems, causing regular blockages.