Keeping strangers on their toes

Ashley Marais, Parow North Ratepayers’ Association chairperson

Referring to your article “Fibre laying process stinks, says resident” (Off My Trolley, Athlone News April 10), in contrast, we in Parow North had quite the opposite experience, simply because we take a keen interest in what happens in our neighbourhood. We live here and we take charge.

In our suburb of Parow North, no businesses or even council are allowed to do surveys or otherwise without going through our ratepayers’ association or neighbourhood watch (NHW).

If a stranger is spotted doing anything untoward or someone goes knocking on a door to do a survey, they will be sent to the ratepayers’ association or NHW who will first vet and approve before they can proceed with their business. When the fibre company left our area, it looked much better than when they started.

This is how we did it.

When Vumatel fibre sent reps into our area to do a walk about and took pictures, one of our patrollers reported them and I, as the ratepayers’ association chairperson asked them what they were about.

They had nice pink bibs with ID tags etc on, and explained they were here to check the area for fibre. I asked who sent them and who they work for. I gave them my details and told them if they want to come back into Parow North, they must get their supervisor/boss to give me a call.

In the meantime, I did some research on Vumatel and there were some complaints on Hello Peter etc. A day later, I got a call from the marketing manager, Cathy, and I explained how we operate. I then asked them to meet with the ratepayers’ association and NHW as well as some interested community members.

A week later the meeting took place and we had a lovely mature discussion about our expectations after we showed them the complaints from Hello Peter.

We felt at the end of the meeting these guys seem sincere, however, we still did some more research and contacted other areas where they had already done some work in the Western Cape. The reports were mainly positive. We still looked at other installers but felt comfortable with Vumatel.

We were also invited to a community meeting where many questions were satisfactorily answered. We then opened a Telegram messenger group, informed the community and all communication relating to the fibre installation was done on there.

Everything Vumatel promised, they did.

If a water pipe was damaged, it got reported on the Telegram group and I, as the link between Vumatel and the community, got onto their case and the pipe was repaired in no time.

If a driveway was not repaired to a residents’ satisfaction, it would take one call and the problem was sorted.

While they were busy laying cables, community members and I would check on them and they were cool about it. It was more like a partnership.

We had an incident where a resident was not happy with the location of a power box and within seven days the power box was moved more than 100 metres, I’m sure at great expense to Vumatel.

The moral here is that one needs to be proud and take charge of your area.

It’s so easy to complain and expect someone else to sort your area out.

Get out of your comfort zone and do something positive. We have adopted our area, Parow North “The Little jewel of the Cape” and all residents help to keep it polished. Who cannot be proud of a polished jewel?

Generally, our community would just take charge. If the council takes a bit long to cut the grass, and the place starts looking unkempt, they would come out on Saturday morning and start cutting the grass, pruning of trees or cleaning up the neighbourhood.

This has been the case for the past three years.

The beauty is that we managed to bring a community together which crosses lines and barriers that many people still see as a problem, viz race, culture, religion, political and social standing.

It is because we are proud of where we live and a cleaner place naturally feels safer.