City withdraws workers after crew robbed yet again in Philippi

Workers will only return when being escorted by “already overstretched” law enforcement officers

By Sandiso Phaliso

12 January 2023

Several blocked drains have been overflowing in Philippi this week after the City of Cape Town withdrew its maintenance teams after five workers were robbed in the area on Monday. This is not the first time services have been pulled from the community due to safety concerns. Photos: Sandiso Phaliso

Residents of Philippi, Cape Town are yet again having to bear the brunt for the actions of a few brazen criminals after the City of Cape Town withdrew its workers from the township this week. This was not the first time the City has had to withdraw services from the community due to safety concerns.

According to residents, the year had appeared to get off to a good start with council workers cleaning the drains as many streets were overflowing with sewage and faeces. This came to a halt on Monday after criminals robbed sanitation workers doing maintenance near Browns Farm.

Ward councillor Melikhaya Gadeni confirmed that five workers were robbed of their cellphones and wallets. He said that the City has informed him that maintenance teams will only return to Philippi when law enforcement officers are available to escort them.

“These robberies must stop. Not only for workers’ safety, but also in the interest of service delivery to our most vulnerable communities,” said Gadeni.

The City’s Law Enforcement spokesperson Wayne Dyason told GroundUp that Philippi is a known “crime hotspot”. Dyason said: “Having to protect City staff going about their vital routine maintenance work on infrastructure is a burden that already overstretched officers will now have to contend with.”

He said officers already provide this service to staff doing “critical maintenance and will continue to do so for as long as it is required”.

Resident Azile Njomane’s home is in Siyahlala informal settlement along Sheffield Road where a blocked drain is overflowing with faeces and maggots. “There is only one drain for over 500 people. There are three different informal settlements here and people dump their waste here. The City should fix these drains twice a month,” said Njomane.

Community leader Xola Faku, who lives in Umsingizane Street, said, “This has been going on for years. The underground drainage system cannot cope with the demand in this area. People are also [discarding] foreign objects which results in blockages.”

Ncumisa Jaxa said she has been encouraging other residents to help guard City workers when they are in the area. “When the workers come, we keep guard of them so that opportunistic criminals cannot take advantage. As residents, we should not fold our arms and watch. We must act against these criminals,” said Jaxa.

The entrance to Mthetho Mfeketho’s home in Ntini Street has blocked by a pool of stagnant sewage water and dirt. “I feel helpless and hopeless. This street is a no-go zone,” said Mfeketho.