How Municipality Handles Issues Of Overgrowth on Undeveloped Plots
Vegetation overgrowth on undeveloped plots (also referred to as vacant plots) is one of the challenges that confront the City of Manzini. On a monthly basis, the Municipal Council of Manzini’s 24/7 Call Centre is inundated with phone calls from frustrated residents whose neighbouring vacant plots have vegetation overgrowth. It appears that the expectation from some citizens is that the Municipality should be the one removing vegetation overgrowth from undeveloped plots yet that is not the correct position. Others assume that all undeveloped plots belong to the Municipality hence it should be the one clearing them of overgrown vegetation. That too is incorrect. Today’s article seeks to clarify existing misconceptions in relation to vegetation overgrowth on vacant plots. It also aims at educating members of the public on how the Municipality handles issues of vegetation overgrowth on undeveloped plots. Firstly, it is important to mention that over 90% of undeveloped plots in the City of Manzini belong to private owners.
Some people purchase land and not develop it in many years; which is discouraged. Secondly, it is important to mention that the responsibility of removing overgrown vegetation from any property in the city, be it developed or undeveloped, lies with the owner of the property. For that reason, the Municipality expects owners of plots to periodically visit their properties and see to it that they are well maintained with no vegetation overgrowth. For those who need such information, the Municipality is able to furnish property owners with information on available overgrowth removal service providers. Section 8, as read with section 11(d) of the Public Health Act 5/1969 refers to vegetation overgrowth (grass, shrubs and trees) as a nuisance. This is because overgrown pockets of land often become breeding grounds for mosquitoes, rodents and snakes. They also provide a conducive hideout for thieves. The Municipal Council of Manzini takes issues of vegetation overgrowth on privately owned properties seriously. It conducts citywide inspections of undeveloped plots on a yearly basis and thereafter issues written notices to owners of plots that have vegetation overgrowth.
As you read this article, final notices have been issued against 77 overgrown plots; and in the event that the vegetation overgrowth remains unremoved notwithstanding these notices, Court summons will be issued against the owners. Most of the identified overgrown vacant plots are in Ngwane Park, Fairview North, Madonsa and Thomasdale. The Public Health Act, 1969, provides a legal framework on how the Municipality is to handle issues of overgrown vegetation on private properties. Upon identification of an overgrown property, the Municipality issues a first written notice/warning to the property owner; directing them to remove the vegetation overgrowth within 14 days from the date of issuance of the notice. Short messages (SMSs) are also sent to the offending property owners. Telephone calls are also made. At the lapse of the 14-day period, another inspection is carried out to check whether or not the overgrowth has been removed. If it transpires that no action has been taken as per the written notice, a final notice is issued; giving the property owner a further seven days to remove the overgrown vegetation.
After the 7 days period yet another inspection is conducted. If there is still no action taken by the property owner, the Municipality takes the matter to court. One of the challenges that the Municipality experiences when handling issues of vegetation overgrowth on undeveloped plots is non-availability of reliable contact information of the property owners; which situation makes communication difficult. Often times the postal address that is available in the Municipality is incorrect. In some cases telephone numbers or even email addresses are not available. The Municipality, therefore, requests residents who live near properties that have vegetation overgrowth to furnish the Municipality with their (owners of overgrown plots) contact information in the event that they have such information so that it is easier to communicate with them and have the matter speedily resolved. On a positive note, it is worth-mentioning that some owners of undeveloped property have made it a culture to maintain their vacant plots even without the Municipality reminding them. That positive attitude is commended and encouraged. That is the kind of attitude that the Municipality wishes could prevail citywide.
The Municipality also notes that some property owners resort to burning the overgrown vegetation, particularly during winter. Such practice is prohibited. Open burning of anything, anywhere in the city, is a prosecutable offence. Should anyone be found conducting such practice, the Municipality, together with the Eswatini Environment Authority, will take legal action against the offender. Neighboring residents are encouraged to immediately report open burning to the Municipality through its 24/7 Call Centre (800 2004/2505 7000) so that appropriate action can be taken.
…MUNICIPALITY CONTINUES TO DELIVER QUALITY SERVICE TO THE CITY
Quality service delivery, in line with its mission statement, remains top priority for the Municipal Council of Manzini. Various teams of employees were this week photographed whilst hard at work in various parts of the city. The following are some of the photos that were taken…