Siyakhona puts rats in City’s crosshairs

Posted: September 2, 2010 by Danny Lurie in Alexandra, HillsideDigital, PressClipping
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Rats are in City’s cross hairs Print E-mail a friend
Written by Rudo Mungoshi
Thursday, 02 September 2010
Catching rats: an Alex resident uses special equipment to kill rodents

There is a rodent infestation in Alexandra, but the City and its partners are spearheading a cleanup and education campaign.

DAVID Maphangwa doesn’t remember when the giant rats first appeared. Like many another Alexandra resident, he has learned to turn a blind eye to the creatures and, surprisingly, he is adjusting to their growing presence.

All Alex residents should come together to clean up their area, says Region E director Liziwe Ntshinga-Makoro

All Alex residents should come together to clean up their area, says Region E director Liziwe Ntshinga-Makoro

“I have been here for three years and it has been an ongoing problem,” Maphangwa says. “They have cost me a lot of money and a lot of inconvenience.”

Maphangwa, an informal trader who sells meat for a living, tries his best to clean up his work place in the hope of not attracting the rats. He used to put down poison for the rodents, but eventually gave up when he realised that it was having no effect.

Norman Mashaba, another Alex meat seller, adds: “They are massive creatures. If people didn’t throw food on the ground, I don’t think it would happen.”

He “always” sees the rats running around, especially in the afternoon. They are causing hell for residents; they chew through doors and get into houses in their endless search for food. It’s common to hear stories of rats eating clothes or opening pots or, more horrifying, of rats biting babies.

One resident claims: “They are large as cats.” Another says: “They are the size of dogs and they are not afraid of humans. They will scurry right around your feet.”

The rodents plaguing Alexandra feed on scraps from bins or on rubbish dumped in the streets. They belong to the Rattus Norvegicus species, known as the Norway rat or the brown rat.

Clean up
To tackle the problem, the City began a massive cleanup campaign on Wednesday, 1 September. It is a response to the problems identified in short films made by six trainee video journalists on the infestation of rats in the township that are breeding in improperly managed rubbish.

The unhygienic conditions in most parts of Alex are excellent breeding ground for rodents

The unhygienic conditions in most parts of Alex are excellent breeding ground for rodents

Participating in the campaign are the Hillside Digital trainee video journalists, Region E, Pikitup, metro police, South African Police Service, Alexandra Urban Renewal Project and local councillors. The campaign will end on 4 September. The areas targeted for the cleanup include Oliver Tambo, Kholofelo ya Joseph, Roosevelt, Alex Vincent, Vasco da Gama and Richard Baloyi.

The six trainee video journalists, all from disadvantaged communities, were trained under the Siyakhona project to become citizen journalists, fighting for the rights of their communities. Siyakhona is part of Sony’s corporate social responsibility collaboration with FIFA. It is implemented through Football for Hope, the FIFA and streetfootballworld movement.

The project is implemented by Hillside Digital, a South African nongovernmental organisation dedicated to giving a voice to impoverished communities.

Speaking at the start of the cleanup at the Square in Alexandra, the Region E regional director, Liziwe Ntshinga-Makoro ,thanked the City departments for uniting to tackle the rat problem. “If we cannot do it together, we are unlikely to win the battle against social challenges.”

She pointed out that initiatives implemented in the past were not successful because of a lack of co-operation between departments and communities. “Urban role management is unlocking the inefficiencies and encouraging a more systematic and integrated approach to service delivery.”

Litter
The City needed to develop a holistic approach to illegal dumping in informal settlements, she added. It needed to encourage people to use rubbish bins and rubbish collection points to reduce rat infestation.

Gotcha! A health officer shows off the size of rats hounding in Alex residents

Gotcha! A health officer shows off the size of rats hounding in Alex residents

Mustapha Hendricks, the chairperson of the pest control task force in the City’s environment health unit, spoke about the five steps that Alex residents could take to keep rats out.

“You have to inspect your property; clean up any droppings or tracks they leave behind; starve them … also shut them out by sealing cracks and holes in your residence; and wipe them out with rodent baiting.”

However, he warned the crowd that using pesticides or baits would not work effectively if they did not change some of their habits. “Rodent bait is an effective way to wipe out rats but it only works if we clear the rubbish first … Instead of throwing out food on to the pavements, wrap it up in plastic bags and throw it into bins.”

To prevent the outbreak of disease, Hendricks explained that his division caught rats on a monthly basis and sent blood samples from them to the National Institute of Communicable Diseases for testing. “So far we have not had any positive results,” he said.

The head of Region E’s health department, Vusi Mazibuko, said the rat infestation in Alexandra was caused by unhygienic conditions, overcrowding, scrap yards and illegal dumping. “If we don’t act quickly about this critical problem, we will have a serious outbreak of diseases.”

Contact the environmental health office on 011 582 1651/2/3 for help in controlling rodents.

Read more: http://www.joburg.org.za/content/view/5639/266/#ixzz0yOoR7awD

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