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​​Johannesburg Executive Mayor Herman Mashaba today (Thursday August 10) unveiled a citywide project to replace stolen manhole covers to ensure the safety of road users and other members of the public.

The multimillion-rand project will be carried out by the Johannesburg Roads Agency (JRA), the municipal-owned entity responsible for the development and maintenance of the City’s roads network and storm water infrastructure.

As Mayor Mashaba rolled up his sleeves to replace a missing manhole cover in Helen Joseph Street, between Miriam Makeba and Henry Nxumalo streets in Newtown, he said open manholes were a danger to residents as they could easily fall into them, especially at night, and sustain serious injuries or even get killed. He said in 2016-2017 alone there were 104 reported deaths linked to open manholes.

The new manhole covers are made of plastic material and have no resalable value. The covers being replaced are made of metal and are constantly targeted by vandals, who sell them to unscrupulous scrap metal dealers for a small price.

“These man-made deaths are one death too many,” the Mayor said.

He issued a stern warning to scrap metal dealers to stop buying metal manhole covers or face the consequences of their actions.

“They can’t say they don’t know metal manhole covers are being stolen. We have more than 4 000 open manholes in the city. And, in as much as I would like to cover all of them, due to budget constraints, I can’t,” said Mashaba.

Plastic manhole covers cost R900 each.

Mashaba said he would do everything possible to replace as many manhole covers as possible.

“With our adjustment budget, we set aside R94-million for JRA to assist us with this manhole-cover problem,” said Mashaba.

He said the City would give first preference to the inner city as this was where many of the open manholes were.

“I don’t know how we got to a point where people steal infrastructure that’s meant to keep them safe,” said Mashaba.

He hoped that through the launch of the upcoming citywide cleanup campaign, the City would be able to engage residents and get them to take responsibility for the infrastructure in their communities.

“I want residents to acknowledge that it’s their responsible to look after the infrastructure in their communities,” said Mashaba.

He said it was disheartening to see there were such safety hazards 23 years after democracy. He said this was an indication that there was no rule of law in the City.

“Twenty years ago, Joburg was one of the most beautiful cities in the world. It has almost turned into a slum. We’re taking our city back and making it an attractive place for investors,” said Mashaba.