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City blames residents for crumbling R4.6m bridge

The ANC in the City says shoddy workmanship is the blame for the crumbling R4.6 million Khayelitsha bridge.

The ANC in the City says shoddy workmanship is the blame for the crumbling R4.6 million Khayelitsha bridge.

Published Feb 15, 2022

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CAPE TOWN - First the City blamed Kuyasa residents in Khayelitsha for the year-long delay in the construction of a bridge.

Now it accuses them of illegally dumping solid waste that led to the partial collapse of the R4.6 million Zenzile Welcome bridge almost two months after the DA-led City handed it over to the community.

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This has raised questions about the standard of services provided to black areas in the city.

The City handed over the bridge that will link Nomatse Street and Ndlulamthi Street to connect two communities in December.

Two months later, residents staged a demonstration at the bridge with placards yesterday calling on the City to treat their grievances and safety concerns with the urgency it deserves.

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Community activist and former ward councillor, Bongile Ngcani, said to date there were no warning signs placed.

“Anything could have happened to people, including children and motorists, who use the road.

“There has been no sense of urgency or immediate response after the damages were reported. One thing about the City, it will never take responsibility, especially in things that seem to expose its carelessness for disadvantaged communities.”

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Current councillor, Lonwabo Mqina, said during the construction of the bridge he was a community activist, and with other leaders, they raised concerns to some City officials, however their complaints were ignored.

“The first red flag is when the City went for the lowest bidder, initially it was estimated that the project would cost R8 million. We anticipated substandard work and that is indeed what we got.

“Even when they announced that they completed the work in December, there were already cracks on the sidewalks. We fear what this road will look like during heavy rains if they are claiming a sewage spill as the reason for the damages,” said Mqina.

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Khayelitsha Development Forum (KDF) chairperson Ndithini Tyhido said the standard of the project demonstrated what we mean by “a City of two tales”.

“They can try to deny this but the reality is seen in our communities. There is a discriminating system, where there is a particular way to develop particular areas.

“If the City claims that the project is not shoddy work then the public protector must be called and allowed to probe the allegations, the money spent and the person who signed off the completed work. We need to know how much care was applied here,” said Tyhido.

Urban Mobility Mayco member Rob Quintas said a combination of windblown sand and solids in the sewage have blocked the inlet and discharge pipe causing the sewage to overtop the kerb and run down the embankment which caused the wash away.

“The blockage in the sewer, which was immediately cleared by the City’s Water and Sanitation Department, is more than likely to have been caused by solid objects which had been illegally dumped into the system.

“The City urges residents in the area to please refrain from dumping solid waste items illegally. If we do not stop illegal dumping into the system, we cannot guarantee that sewer spills in this area will ever stop or even occur less frequently,” said Quintas.

Quintas claims concrete new Jersey barriers have been placed in the roadway to keep traffic away from the edge and warning signs have also been erected.

He dismissed claims that damage to the road was owing to low standard construction or materials used for the project.

“To ensure the highest standard of work the City appointed an Independent Employer’s Agent, a professional service provider, to closely monitor the progress and standard of work throughout the project.

“These professionals would only certify payments in respect of work completed according to the various standard specifications,” said Quintas.

The SA Council for the Project and Construction Management Professions said where potential sub-standard construction work is undertaken or breakdown in infrastructure result an investigation should be undertaken to determine the cause of the incident.

Another experienced contractor said: “It looks like poor material was used to do the backfill. There is contamination, plastics and a lot of debris in the material which would have made it difficult for the contractor to obtain the desired compaction results.

“It also doesn’t seem like any engineering material was used in and around that headwall. The project is still in the retention period so that contractor would still be required to fix the damage,” he said.

The SA Council for the Project and Construction Management Profession's (SACPCMP) Natasha van der Berg said it was possible that heavy winter rains can cause more damage and also called for an investigation to be initiated soon.

Cape Times

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