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Business owners slam Sol’s ‘lax approach’

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Recent events have left local business owners furious and concerned about the deteriorating state of their beloved CBD.

Rubbish is being burnt at the back of the Kaap Crimp building in the Kimberley CBD. The stench of urine also hangs in the air as you walk past the area. Picture: Supplied

THE ONCE-clean streets of Kimberley’s central business district (CBD) have long been known for their charm and unique historical appeal. However, recent events have left local business owners furious and concerned about the deteriorating state of their beloved CBD.

Several business owners in the Kimberley CBD have voiced their grievances about the current situation plaguing the commercial district. The issues range from widespread littering and unsightly rubbish scattered around the streets to the presence of persistent hawkers, homeless individuals occupying pavements and the alarming trend of the open burning of rubbish and public drinking in parks and on the streets on weekends.

The lack of intervention from Sol Plaatje Municipality and the perceived absence of effective city by-laws have only compounded the problems.

The frustrations of business owners have grown exponentially, with many sharing stories of the smell of urine and faeces accumulating at their shop fronts due to homeless individuals seeking shelter on their property. These unpleasant sights and odours have led to increased concerns about the safety and well-being of their customers, as well as the tarnished image of the Diamond City’s CBD.

One such business owner who has borne the brunt of many of these issues is Joseph McGuire, the owner of Kaap Crimp, a popular material shop in the CBD.

McGuire has endured repeated incidents of people burning rubbish in the vicinity of his building, urinating against the walls and using his premises as a makeshift sleeping area.

He shared his thoughts on the dire situation with the DFA, stating: “It’s disheartening to see our once-charming CBD transformed into a place where such behaviours are tolerated. We are trying to provide a welcoming and safe environment for our customers, but these problems are driving them away.”

McGuire says the lack of action from Sol Plaatje Municipality has become a point of contention among business owners who expect the local authority to enforce by-laws and maintain a clean and secure city centre. Many believe that the current situation has been allowed to fester without intervention.

Local residents and tourists who visit the Kimberley CBD have also expressed their concerns. They are dismayed by the deteriorating ambience and the increasing sense of insecurity, which contrasts starkly with the historical and cultural heritage of Kimberley.

Sol Plaatje Municipality spokesperson Thoko Riet provided responses to questions posed to the municipality regarding the situation in the CBD. These responses shed some light on the municipality’s stance and action plan in regard to the issues plaguing the city centre.

Addressing the litter and rubbish problem:

According to Riet, the municipality has developed a specific plan with the approval of the municipal manager (MM). This plan was created in collaboration with the Northern Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Nocci). Riet emphasised that maintaining a clean city is not solely the municipality’s responsibility; “everyone must be on board with keeping Kimberley clean”.

Enforcement of stricter by-laws:

The municipality’s response indicates that training is currently being done, and once training has been completed, the enforcement of stricter by-laws will be implemented. This suggests that measures are being put in place to address issues affecting business owners in the CBD and Kimberley residents.

Dealing with homeless individuals:

According to Riet, addressing the issue of homeless individuals occupying pavements and shop fronts is not within the municipality’s jurisdiction. They have engaged with the Department of Social Development, recognising it as a social problem.

Public forums and revitalisation:

The municipality noted that business owners are playing a vital role in maintaining the city’s cleanliness. Riet highlighted a recent public meeting facilitated by Nocci in September, where businesses were engaged along with the municipality to collaborate in keeping the city clean. There are ongoing efforts to establish a platform for citizens and business owners to contribute their ideas for revitalising the Kimberley CBD.

Timeline for resolution:

The municipality did not provide a specific timeline for resolving the CBD’s issues, suggesting that ongoing engagements are in progress to address these concerns.

While these responses provide some insight into the municipality’s stance and future plans, the effectiveness of these measures remains to be seen.

As the frustrations of business owners continue to grow, there is a growing call for Sol Plaatje Municipality to step up, introduce and enforce by-laws, and initiate a comprehensive plan to combat the issues currently plaguing the Kimberley CBD.

The future of this historically significant city centre hangs in the balance, and its restoration to its former vibrancy is paramount for the prosperity of Kimberley and the well-being of its citizens and visitors.

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