Five staff members from the Bedfordview Parks Depot face suspension after they allegedly accepted a R3 000 bribe to cut back trees which obscured the visibility of a Bedfordview billboard.
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“The personnel will be suspended to ensure non-interference in the the investigation,” said spokesperson for the EMM, Themba Gadebe.
Gadebe said that the parks department did not authorise the use of its equipment to cut back trees obscuring the billboard.
“An EMPD investigation is also underway to determine whether the R3 000 was paid by the owners of the billboard,” said Gadebe.
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“Since the start of the investigation one of the parks depot staff members – who was also accused – has agreed to assist in the process, essentially turning witness against the other accused,” said Gadebe.
“Bedfordview residents are passionate about these trees,” said Ward 20 councillor, Jill Humphreys.
Also read: Trees to make way for super billboard
“The trees are an integral part of the history of Bedfordview. They were planted by the British Cavalry based in Bedfordview during the war,” she said.
“These magnificent oaks form a barrier between the toxic emissions from the highway, the burgeoning traffic build-up in Van Buuren Road and our abutting residential areas,” Humphreys said.
“They make our town just that little bit safer and more pleasant to live,” she said.
According to the Ekurhuleni Billboard and Display of Advertisements by-laws of 2017, no person shall in the course of erecting or removing any advertising sign, advertising structure or device, cause damage to the environment, including any tree or vegetation.
Also stated in the by-laws for planting, pruning, removal and treatment of street trees, is the warning that no tree may be pruned or removed from the metro’s property except by the department or contractor appointed by the executive director.
Under the EMM Police Services by-laws, no sign should be designed or displayed in such a manner that it is detrimental to the environment or the amenity of the neighbourhood for any reason.
Signs and billboards may also not obliterate other signs, natural features, architectural features or visual lines of civic or historical interest.
Billboard owner comments
Zaheida Sayed, the inhouse legal representative for Blackmedia Outdoor, confirmed to the NEWS that the billboard belonged to the company.
“The billboard was erected during March this year after having complied with and obtaining all the necessary approvals, as required in terms of the by-laws of the EMM,” she said. Sayed said the company was only made aware of the allegations of bribery when Ya-eesh Sidat was contacted by the EMM’s investigations department.
“Mr Sidat advised the EMM representative that he had no knowledge of what had been happening and was not involved in any way.
“To this day, we advise that we have had no part in cutting down the trees and nor have we, as alleged, paid anyone to remove and/or cut the trees down for us,” Sayed told the NEWS. She also said that during the erection of the billboard the company had to deal with many disgruntled entities.
“We suspect these were other media owners who were not happy with the erection of the billboard and had tried every attempt to prevent us from exercising what we were legally entitled to, by virtue of the approval granted by the EMM outdoor advertising department,” Sayed said.
She added that intimidation went as far as Sidat receiving threatening phone calls while on site with a client.
“This sort of discontentment and retaliation is very common and par for the cause in the outdoor advertising industry. There are other media owners who wish to bury smaller media companies with the aim of inheriting their sites thereafter,” she said.
Sayed believes that this is just another ploy to unsettle the company and a further attempt to paint Blackmedia Outdoor in a bad light among clients and the community. “We will not take this lightly and will demand proof of the allegations made,” she said.