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Pretoria - The Pretoria inner city is under siege from a rodent and termite infestation that threatens the health of city residents, health experts and pest control agents have warned.
Rats, mice, cockroaches and other pests run wild on city streets, through the sewer system and gutters. They live inside flats and offices and are a constant nuisance to residents.
“They run rampant inside flats and offices and inhabit the ceilings, cupboards and basements, threatening not only the health but also the wellbeing of our people,” city doctor John Meluleki said.
Two floors in the Pretoria Central Firearms Control Register offices have been completely sealed off and half of another shut down in the past two weeks after they were infested by rats and lice.
Staff had to be relocated. This left work – pertaining to the processing of firearm applications and registrations – at a standstill.
Labour inspectors visited the building and pronounced the affected floors a health hazard and a threat to the lives of employees.
“We prohibited the use of the floors until fumigation had been carried out and asked that proper air conditioning be installed,” Department of Labour spokesman Paige Boikanyo said.
Frequent infestations in offices and flats in the city and outskirts have had pest control companies scrambling to control the problem.
“We’ve been very busy for a few years now, fumigating areas over and over within a short period of time,” pest control agent Kevin Strydom said.
The pipes connecting flats and underground plumbing created passageways for the pests. “You can only use so much chemical mixtures before poisoning the city,” he said of the failure to rid buildings of cockroaches.
Floors in office buildings are often closed off because of the pest problem, causing huge delays in services. The problem is rife in the city, said Hennie Mostert of Mostert Pest Control.
“The rats and mice make their habitat in warm environments, where they breed litters of anything up to 100 at a time,” he said.
The pests terrorised residents of the CBD, Sunnyside and Arcadia, and underground systems.
Although both pests survived in the outdoors, they went indoors after dusk to seek food, water and warmth.
Rodent specialist Themba Nhlapho said rodent breeding was encouraged by the warmth and amounts of food they could access indoors. “There are old buildings with old furniture in city offices that provide the perfect environment for rats to breed and store food, where their young can be safe until they are ready to go out and fend for themselves,” he said.
Residents in the city are often confronted by rats, mice and cockroaches running through and across the street.
“It is not unusual to see a rat peering from the gutter and quickly darting from one door to the other,” city employee Lorna Smit said.
Her colleague Lebokgang Tindwa said the pests have become so brazen that they crossed the road if they sensed no immediate danger of cars.
An NSA Pest Control worker said: “We’re often called out to the same block of flats to fumigate because some residents do not main-tain the level of cleanliness required to discourage outbreaks.”
In past years, the activity of rats, mice, lice and cockroaches would slow down during winter cutting the need for fumigation for up to five months.
“But since at least three years ago we’ve had no such break in business. The activity of rats and cockroaches in the city remained high, if not slightly more in recent winters, because they have become more resilient with the comforts they are provided with,” said pest control agent Leila Strydom.
On Friday last week, she said six teams from her company were out in the city, and together with other companies they struggled to control the problem. The city admitted to problems with outbreaks in the city, but was unable to provide statistics or a plan to rid the city of the problem.
“Unless serious steps are taken to eliminate the problem these pests will take over the city, parking attendant Nkhosi Sedibe said.
Said Meluleki: “They carry diseases from one point to the other, which creates a health hazard.” There needed to be a clear plan to rid the city of these pests to prevent disaster, he added.