How Council Precesses Issues of Overgrowth on Vacant Plots
The Municipal Council of Manzini has a responsibility to facilitate for citizens of the city to enjoy a quality urban life. In the course of delivering on that responsibility, one of the impediments usually becomes issues related to overgrowth on vacant plots. Judging by the number of calls that the Municipality receives through its 24/7 Call Centre (800 2004/2505 7000) in relation to requests for removal of overgrown vegetation on neighbouring plots, one can tell that this is one of the issues that deprive citizens of the comfort and enjoyment of living in the city. From the conversations that the Municipality has when giving feedback to such requests, it appears that the natural expectation from citizens is that Council should spring to action and remove the overgrowth. Unfortunately, that is not how the Municipality deals with such issues. Council does not remove overgrowth on privately owned vacant plots. Instead, the responsibility lies with the owner of the property.
All that Council does is engage the property owner and ‘remind’ them of the responsibility to ensure that their properties are well maintained and that no overgrowth exists therein. Clear timelines, as laid out in the Public Health Act, 1969, are given to the offending property owner. It also suffices to mention that the Municipality is not only reactive when addressing such service requests but periodically takes an inventory of all vacant plots in the city, identify those that are overgrown and proactively engage their owners into removal of the overgrown vegetation. Council’s plea is for owners of property to make it a point that they maintain their plots and ensure that there is no existence of overgrown vegetation. Council’s responsibility is to remove overgrowth only on road reserves (next to the roads) as well as Council owned open spaces; not on privately owned plots.
…STEPS TAKEN AGAINST OVERGROWN PLOTS
The following are the procedural steps that the Municipal Council of Manzini takes when addressing issues of overgrown vegetation on privately owned vacant and developed plots;
- A written notice is served to the offending property owner, giving them a 14-day period to remove the overgrowth.
- Upon the lapse of the 14-day period, a site inspection is conducted to establish whether or not there has been compliance.
- If non-compliance persists, a final notice is issued to the property owner; giving them a further 7-day period to remove the overgrown vegetation.
- At the lapse of the 7-day period, another site inspection is conducted.
- If there is continued non-compliance, the Municipality commences Court processes against the property owner. Summonses are issued through the Royal Eswatini Police Service (REPS).
- The REPS communicates with the property owner, notifying them of their date of appearance before Court.
- The Court then issues a verdict on the matter.
…DIFFICULTIES IN DEALING WITH OVERGROWTH ISSUES
The Municipality experiences a number of challenges whilst addressing issues of overgrowth on private vacant plots and these tend to affect the turnaround time in finalizing the process. However, Council always makes an effort to have these hiccups addressed. The following are some of the difficulties encountered;
- Difficulties are often encountered with estate properties. Often times it becomes unclear as to who is responsible for taking care of the estate whilst in the process of being wound up. This results in family members not taking responsibility over the property.
- Some property owners leave the country for long term residence in other countries without updating their contact details with Council; which act makes it difficult to trace the property owner.
- Plot owners sell their properties and, when approached, refuse to assist Council with contact information of the new owner.
COVID-19 HELPING HAND: ILLA PENBOY, MOHALE DONATE TO THE NEEDY
Popular artist, Sifiso Illa Penboy Mntungwa together with Mbabane-based consulting company, Mohale Emmanuel Consulting Services (M.E.C.S), last week extended a helping hand to about 135 less privileged children of Old Zakhele who benefit one meal per day at the community’s Social Centre (also referred to as a Soup Kitchen). The ‘good Samaritans’ donated packets of beans, loaves of bread and face masks as a means to assist ensure the children have something to eat even during the Covid-19 period. The Municipal Council of Manzini is grateful to both the artist and company for the kind gesture. Other companies and individuals are encouraged to do same. At least eight social centres exist in various townships in the City of Manzini and collectively take care of about 1,500 less advantaged children. The following photos were taken during the donation exercise…