IFP wants decent houses instead of owls

The City of Johannesburg must urgently provide people with decent housing instead of spending millions buying owls to eat rats, the IFP said on Wednesday.

"The city... has allocated R2.5 million to fight the scourge of rodents, which the IFP believes would have been better if it was spent building houses for shack dwellers," Inkatha Freedom Party spokesman Petros Sithole said.

"Only with proper housing can the rat problem be truly tackled. This is a total waste of public funds," he said.

"The government is moving painfully slow in improving shack dwellers' living conditions. We further call on the SA Local Government Association to intervene and advise all municipalities on how to address this issue as one of their developmental priorities," he said.

The city was using barn owls as part of a R2.5 million plan to fight rat infestation. The plan includes trapping and poisoning on a "minimum" level.

Owl boxes have been placed at four schools in Alexandra, each containing four owls, mayoral committee member for health Nonceba Molwele told reporters on Tuesday. Another owl box was placed at the Marlboro Gardens Combined school.

"In recent years rodents have become a challenge in certain areas of Johannesburg such as informal settlements and overcrowded buildings in the inner city," she said.

Jonathan Haw of Eco Solutions said a family of owls could eat about 2000 rats per year. Over 83,000 owls had been released into various parts of Gauteng since 1998.

The New Age reported last month that a one-month-old baby in Alexandra had to go for reconstructive surgery after rats ate three of her fingers and part of her nose.

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