Metal thieves have been stealing the cast iron manhole covers around our city for a while now and we knew it was just a matter of time before they hit Richmond Hill. For the sake of a few rands these thieves have no qualms about putting the lives and property of their hapless victims at risk. And what contributes to the problem is that there is always an unscrupulous scrap metal dealer who is willing to buy these ill-gotten gains.
Whole streets have been left with gaping holes that could cause serious damage to car tyres. Residents have been up in arms because of the slow pace at which this problem was being attended to.
Then in a matter of a few nights Richmond Hill was missing 28 manhole covers and warnings went out via our Facebook neighbourhood watch page to watch out for these new hazards in our roads. All sorts of impractical temporary solutions were suggested, like filling the holes with gravel - "Hello, what happens if there is a fire and you have to connect a hose to one of the fire hydrants?"
This was not problem for a creative soul like Suzie, who comes up with ideas and is prepared to carry them through.
"Let's plant trees in the holes," she suggested, "that will provide a good warning to motorists and get the attention of the municipality." No sooner were the words uttered and she had sourced a good supply of pine saplings and some willing helpers, took my bakkie (truck, ute) the next day and set about her mission with her usual verve.
The result was that by that afternoon every open hole in the streets of Richmond Hill had its own Christmas tree. Not to be out-done the local residents and shop owners captured the vision and started decorating the trees....and the neighbourhood was looking very festive for a few hours.
By the next morning, much to our indignation, reports started coming in that many of the trees had gone missing, but on closer inspection we found that the manholes were covered with new plastic covers. Within less than 48 hours there was not an open hole in any of the streets in our neighbourhood.
"How did you get it right so quickly?" residents from neighbouring suburbs wanted to know after passing through Richmond Hill.
"Easy," came the reply from all and sundry, "just plant a tree."
That is the power of a fun and creative protest. One person with a vision and the passion to carry it through and a bureaucrat who does not like the embarrassment of being shown up.