RATS! Western Cape premier Helen Zille had a painful start to her day yesterday when she was bitten by a rat – highlighting the rodent problem plaguing South Africa's major cities.
"The weirdest thing just happened," she tweeted. "I went to fetch the newspapers at the gate when a rat darted out, and bit me on my toe!"
Zille posted a photo of her bloodied big toe, and confirmed she was consulting a doctor.
"I did not have a rabies injection after seeking advice and learning it was not necessary," she said.
Dense human settlements, a steady supply of food waste and the absence of predators is contributing to the rodent problem in major cities, says Cape Town mayoral health services committee member Lungiswa James.
"City health has budgeted R530843 for the purchase of rat poisons. These are placed in high infestation areas, which are complemented by rat baiting stations," James said.
Rats are also a problem in Durban, invading homes, gardens and parks. eThekwini municipal spokesman Thabo Mofokeng yesterday acknowledged the city's rat problem but said "our strategies have proved to be working". Among the strategies are cleaning parks and using chemicals to keep the rodents away.
According to Durban pest control companies, the black rat is the most common rat in the city. Adult rats range from 32-46cm. Tails average 17cm.
In Gauteng, Kempton Park resident Phumzile Mbatha says her house has rats "as big as cats".
"I have spent over R5000 on rat poison in the last few years" without success, she said.
Pest control company owner Ronald Springfield said: "The rat problem in Johannesburg suburbs, malls and hospitals is growing rapidly." – Mosa Mokhema, Lehlohonolo Tau, Jan Bornman, Canaan Mdletshe