No rubbish collection for third month in Mamelodi

Vendors desperate as garbage piles up

By Warren Mabona

12 October 2023

Uncollected waste is piling up on Tsamaya Avenue in Mamelodi. Photo: Warren Mabona

Rubbish has been piling up in Mamelodi as City of Tshwane municipal workers have been absent for a third month.

Workers marched to the municipal offices on 26 July, having downed tools a few days earlier to demand a 5.4% salary increase.

The work stoppage disrupted landfill sites, waste collection and other municipal services.

Waste removal teams escorted by metro police began to clean up some areas. Some residents paid people to collect rubbish. In a statement on 24 August, Mayor Cilliers Brink said waste collection had proceeded despite intimidation and even attacks.

But there are piles of rubbish on the streets and main roads. This week waste was burning on Tsamaya Avenue and black smoke was billowing across the road.

Judi Makambo, who sells cakes, sweets and snacks on the avenue, said this is a daily occurrence and the smoke makes it hard to breathe.

“I lose many customers every day because many people do not walk here when this rubbish is burning. If there is no smoke from burning rubbish, then there is a bad stench.”

Adolf Sithole, who runs a hair salon from a roadside shack, said, “I always have to apologise to my customers for the presence of these flies … My biggest fear is that I will lose my regular customers.”

Sithole and another resident, Njabulo Nene, said they have seen rubbish being collected by men in a unmarked blue truck.

When GroundUp found the truck on the corner of Tsamaya Avenue and Shilovhane Street, the workers would not say whether they were working for the City.

City spokesperson Lindela Mashigo said a catch-up plan to clean up the township had been repeatedly disrupted. “There have been acts of intimidation and the City cannot risk the lives of its employees as well as the fleet that is used to collect waste. The strike did not end. Not all workers have returned to work.”

Mashigo would not say whether the blue truck was that of a City service provider.

SAMWU Tshwane regional secretary Precious Theledi said, “Our members have never been on strike …. They did not sign a register and the City dismissed them. Close to 300 of our members have been dismissed by the City so far.”

She said the City obtained an interdict from the Labour Court against SAMWU members in July. “They interdicted us even though we never went on strike, because they blamed SAMWU for the strike,” said Theledi.

But spokesperson for the City, Selby Bokaba, insisted that Tshwane municipal workers members of SAMWU had embarked on a strike in July.

He said on 9 August, SAMWU’s leadership issued a statement requesting its members to return to work.

“It is common cause that SAMWU embarked on a strike. Employees across the board, not necessarily SAMWU members, come in the morning and in the afternoon to sign attendance registers, but don’t do any work,” said Bokaba.

He said the City had fired 123 employees in connection with the strike, and more dismissals are on the way.

Bokaba said the City was not in talks with SAMWU about the dismissals and would start the process of advertising positions where employees had been dismissed.

According to Bokaba, the Labour Court granted the City an interim interdict against the workers in July and it was made a final interdict last month.

SAMWU Gauteng provincial secretary Mpho Tladinyane said union members were not involved in the disruption of the City’s catch-up plan.

She also said there are no talks taking place between the City and the union and no way forward.