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Friday Oct 17, 2014

Driver fury over Pretoria roadworks

Anger has mounted among motorists in Pretoria central due to abuse by self-appointed parking attendants, extensive road closures, deficient parking spots, and the towing away of vehicles by the metro police.

Yesterday, some motorists blamed the Tshwane metro for implementing 'haphazard' street construction without considering the resulting traffic congestion and its economic impact on motorists.

Pensioner Eleanor Pletor, 65, says she has had to cancel important appointments in the city centre many times because of traffic gridlock and harassment by touts.

'For most of us, Pretoria central has become a no-go area. The Tshwane municipality started it all when it initiated arbitrary, thoughtless road renovations in every direction of the city,' she said angrily.

In August, she was mugged by a group of 'parking marshals' as she negotiated for a parking spot near a bank on Church Square, in the heart of the city. Her cellphone and money were taken. She did not report the matter to police.

'One can never find parking at the SAPS Pretoria central. You leave your vehicle illegally parked outside the station, or anywhere in this city, Tshwane has a fleet of tow trucks which hastily take your car away,' said Pletor.

Since last year, major streets in the city centre have been closed for the ambitious bus rapid transit (BRT) system, causing daily traffic gridlock.

Brenda Mojapelo says she needs a male relative to accompany her when she drives in Pretoria central. Many times she was forced to pay the thugs who barricade major streets with cones and construction site markers.

'In this city, everyone can block a street and demand money. I know the metro cops are aware of it because I have seen these touts opening the way for marked Tshwane metro police cars. They blocked me and the metro officers turned a blind eye,' she said.

'Tshwane's focus is not on us, the ratepayers. Pretoria central has become non-accessible.

'It's like a form of apartheid. The municipal police only clamp cars and issue tickets.'

The traffic is worsened by faulty traffic lights, some of which have been replaced by stop signs.

Sello Mbedzi questioned the city's developmental priorities.

He said the millions paid to the aborted Dinokeng Tribe-One music festival could have dramatically improved services in the capital city.

'How does a city which cannot provide street lights throw our money to Nicki Minaj?

'I have stayed in central Pretoria for two decades and have seen the rapid decline of service delivery under mayor Kgosientso Ramokgopa's control.

'Our streets are festering with uncollected rubbish. When you drive in Pretoria central you are at the mercy of taxi drivers, parking marshals and road closures,' said Mbedzi.

Some motorists complained of Tshwane municipal buses parking along busy streets to pick up or drop passengers. Several buses park in Pretorius Street for hours.

Justice Project SA chairman Howard Dembovsky said the Pretoria traffic situation was a nightmare. 'I have experienced the gridlock while trying to get to court to testify. If I had to deal with it daily I sincerely doubt I would be able to,' said Dembovsky.

'The monumental scale on which these roadworks have been undertaken - without phasing them - can only be described as being insane.

'I fully concur that parking in Tshwane is not only deficient but practically non-existent.

'This is somewhat surprising in light of the enormous number of government departments based in Tshwane which members of the public have a need to visit.

'I have not seen any park-and-ride solutions being provided by the city,' says Dembovsky.

Regarding the 'informal car guards', Dembovsky said it was unacceptable that law enforcement authorities, particularly the metro police, allow them to operate freely.

Tshwane municipal spokesman Lindela Mashigo apologised for the inconvenience to motorists. 'Drivers' frustrations are understandable. We trust residents will soon experience the benefits to follow once this project is completed.'

Projected timeframes

  • Boom to Struben streets - December
  • Struben to Johannes Ramokhoase streets - February or March next year
  • Johannes Ramokhoase to Madiba streets - December
  • Madiba to Pretorius streets, including work on Church Square - March next year
  • Pretorius to Nana Sita streets - to commence later in 2014 or early 2015

    Residents will be informed when the construction commences.

    Pretoria News

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