NKRA Communique – November 2020

Hi everyone

Unfortunately, South Africa is still in the grip of Covid-19. Thousands of new cases were reported in October, and hundreds of South Africans died in October. We will therefore do the responsible thing, and cancel our planned November meeting of the NKRA as well. Hopefully things will be better in January, but right now things are still quite serious.

Meanwhile we will continue to communicate using technology, and we will undertake all the projects which the members are willing to authorise. It was proposed in the previous newsletter to undertake a number of projects, and I asked for feedback from members. I have received a number of messages supporting the proposals, and thus far nobody has objected at all.

See news article https://www.moneyweb.co.za/news/south-africa/joburg-is-broken/. Although we all pay taxes, and the Council is obliged to deliver services, it is clear that we will need to make substantial efforts of our own to protect our investments and our quality of life – at least in the short to medium term. However if you notice any service-delivery issues, please continue to call the municipal help-desk and report these problems (011 375 5555). The municipal departments monitor the help-desk logs, so please call the help-desk, log the issues, and wait for them to give you a reference number.

Simultaneously, the ward councillor provides the urban inspector with lists of issues in the area on an on-going basis. Please would you all help us in maintaining an up-to-date list of outstanding issues, by sending a proper description thereof, together with the precise location of each issue and your reference number, to Councillor Huggett at eleanorhuggett@gmail.com. Please be very specific with these reports, and please include photos where possible – that seems to help.

Water leaks are a particular problem. Not only does the leaking water contribute to the growth of potholes, but clean water is obviously a scarce resource. You can report all leaks to Joburg Water at their 24-hour hotline on 0860 562 874, by sending an SMS to 082 653 2143 or an email to customer@jwater.co.za. Alternately we can use the general City hotline on 011 375 5555.

We can also help ourselves by going “off-grid” as far as possible. Most of us can install back-up power inverters to store some electrical power for the times when we have power cuts. I’m sure we are all keeping a supply of battery lamps and solar lamps in our homes. Please take special care when using candles if you have small children, or cats, or if you are leaving a window open. You should also keep a small torch in each car at all times, for those nights when you come home after dark to find the power off again, and the garage is totally dark. Please also ensure that your security guards have lamps and torches etc as well.

We can all store a reserve supply of clean tap water in our homes – whether in a formal tank or a drum, or simply in repurposed cold-drink bottles. Those buildings which have swimming pools have a huge extra advantage, as that water can be used for washing or for flushing toilets. It is not really safe to drink swimming pool water due to the chemicals and the bacteria, but the sun will evaporate the chlorine out after a few days, and bacteria can be killed by boiling the water. If the water outage lasts a long time, you can expose pool water to the sun in a clear container for a few days on the window-ledge or balcony, and then boil it to make it safe. Portable or counter-top water filters are also becoming a good idea.

Although we cannot repair water leaks or serious potholes in the road, we can make our roads a bit safer by back-filling the dangerous holes with rubble and gravel etc. The NKRA has back-filled a number of potholes so far, but there are more areas that still need attention. Please help us if you have some spare stones or gravel available.

We will soon begin a project to repair dangerous pavement surfaces. Please help us by reporting to us all known areas where pavements are dangerously uneven, so that we can build up a list before getting quotes.

The NKRA has obtained a quote from RCS Security to remove the rubble and the broken pavement dustbin at the circle in 7th Street, and to clean up the serious litter on the motorway embankment adjacent to the circle. This quote for R3703 includes providing a skip to remove the collected litter and rubble. However removing that shattered dustbin will not be easy, there is heavy litter all along that embankment, and there are issues on the 7th Street pavement as well. If the work takes longer than anticipated, then we will ask them to extend the project so as to do a thorough job. However we can expect more homeless people to camp there in future, and more litter to appear shortly, so this will continue to be an on-going problem.

We previously proposed to hire a cleaner to clean the streets around the taxi rank in 1st Street, using an employee of a security company who can simultaneously observe the drug and alcohol selling and report back to the security company accordingly. The cost thereof from RCS Security will be R7700 per month, for a five-day week, and will include equipment and supervision, as well as back-up from the security company where needed. The security company has proposed that we run this project for at least three months, as it will take time for the cleaner to establish relationships with the street community and gain access to useful gossip. We anticipate that the problems here will get worse over the festive season, both littering and crime, and so the extra support will be very useful.

Personal security is always a concern. We have had a number of cell-phone snatchings this year on the pavements, including specifically at the corner of 3rd Street and Killarney Avenue. There have also been a variety of other crimes and offences in this area, from car thefts to car washers and aggressive “car guards”.

The tuk-tuk patrol does its best to deter such crimes, but it has a long loop to travel, and the muggers obviously time their crimes to when the tuk-tuk is at the other end of its patrol, so as to avoid being caught. The tuk-tuk is aware of the muggings at this intersection, and that guard has instructions to loiter here a bit longer than on the other corners in its loop, and to film “suspicious” activities with video mode. However the criminals can see the tuk-tuk, and then they tend to behave themselves until the tuk-tuk moves along. The tuk-tuk cannot serve as both a visible deterrent and a hidden camera at the same time.

We are therefore planning to install a high-spec security video camera at the corner of 3rd Street and Killarney Avenue, to watch for car thefts etc as well as muggings. We have installed such a camera at Daventry Court in 1st Street, and it has given us good footage as well as real-time surveillance of a trouble-spot.

The NKRA will pay for (and continue to own) these cameras, which cost about R15,000-R20,000. We do however need a building to volunteer to host it. Hosting includes providing electricity to the camera, and training your guards to operate it, and to call the police and armed response as soon as they notice a problem. The cell-phone snatchers jump into cars to make a quick getaway, so the guards will need to react quickly if we are to get an armed response on site in time to stop them, or to pursue the car successfully. Brenthurst Court has volunteered to host such a camera, and we are therefore proceeding with the planning and procurement. This extra camera will help a lot at this troubled corner.

We are also trying to arrange for another such camera to be installed at the intersection of 1st Street and 2nd Ave, where the street drinkers currently gather. Before the trouble-makers can be arrested and charged, they will need to be caught in the street and arrested in the street, by the police. People are legally allowed to gather on pavements, and the problem is that the drinkers see the police vehicles approaching, and then pack away the alcohol before the police reach them – it is not illegal to carry alcohol around. The camera operators therefore need to be trained to zoom in on faces and bottle-labels, and then we will have a chance to make a successful case.

The idea is that eventually we will have a number of camera installation points set up all around Killarney, and we will be able to relocate our cameras ourselves from building to building as needed, to keep the pressure on the bad guys.

We also are working on building up a “database” of people who drink alcohol illegally on our pavements, by obtaining close-up photos of them using these high-definition cameras. We will then circulate these photos to residents, asking if anybody knows their names or addresses etc, so as to further assist the police.

Fresh quotes were obtained by a resident for a Vumacam pole at the problematic intersection of 1st Street and 2nd Avenue. As per the quote, that pole will have three cameras. The Vumacams are not flexible or rotatable, and the cameras are fully exposed to view, so once the bad guys realise where the cameras are pointing they can simply relocate slightly, out of line of the cameras, or behind a parked vehicle. Once the regular offenders have established the cameras’ fields of vision, the cameras will be less useful against them. The cost of that single Vumacam pole with three cameras will be R3996 per month in total, which does NOT include the cost of a security service to monitor these cameras. Vumacam partners with Off-site Monitoring Service (OMS), who monitor these cameras at a cost of R569 per camera per month, i.e. R1708 per month for the three cameras. The Off-site Monitoring Service also requires a dedicated fibre connection. OMS state in their brochure that the “video is not monitored on a continual live basis”, and that “live video is sent to our control room once the system is triggered by an event.” I’m not sure if street drinkers are part of their “trigger event” definition, or if this expensive service will really help us at all actually. We had Vumacam salesmen attend an NKRA meeting a while ago to “sell” their service, and the consensus of the meeting afterward was that they cost a lot but they cannot give us what we need.

I personally think that stationing a trained guard on this corner is the best answer in the short term, backed up with quality cameras to record evidence so that it does not end up being a “your word against my word” situation. However I am not confident that Vumacam is the way to go.

A disturbing recent development in 1st Street is the advent of a “tavern on wheels”. A red minibus taxi with licence plate PDB923GP, now arrives to sell alcoholic cocktails to pedestrians, as though it were selling ice cream. Please would you all advise your security to watch out for this vehicle, and to report it urgently? If the cops catch them in the act they might even impound the vehicle – which will really hurt the criminals concerned.

Another resident obtained a quote from Cortac Security. Their CAP vehicle patrol currently costs R118,000 per month, for a 12/7 service. This is totally unaffordable under present circumstances, and they cannot even guarantee to solve the problem to begin with.

Many buildings in Johannesburg have been hit with massive back-charges for sewerage costs. Please see the detailed explanation in the link at https://www.schindlers.co.za/2020/cojs-change-of-sewer-tariffs/. A number of Johannesburg buildings are therefore preparing a joint legal challenge against the municipal authority. If your building has been affected, and you wish to participate in this legal challenge, you can contact Ms Chantelle Gladwin-Wood of Schindlers Attorneys, at gladwin-wood@schindlers.co.za.

Please would our member buildings give feedback on the various projects suggested above? If any member building objects to any of these projects, please would you contact me urgently? If members don’t specifically object, then I will assume that you are in support of these projects.

We also welcome all suggestions from all residents, on all issues.

Keep well, and keep safe ?

Wayne