13 February 2023
People living in Palm Springs, under the Emfuleni Municipality south of Gauteng, say their garbage has gone uncollected for months.
Vusumuzi Nhlapo says it has been six months since they last saw a garbage truck. On top of this, there are sewage overflows.
“We are on our own as a community,” says Nhlapo.
“Before they would come fortnightly, and even that was inconsistent. But now there is total silence. The landfill sites only work for people who have cars. It’s far. You can’t expect people to walk for over two kilometres to dispose of waste … They have resorted to dumping near the houses, and you can’t take the smell of this place when it is hot,” said Nhlapo.
“They told us a couple of years ago that the sewerage system was poorly installed and the pipes are small. But nothing has been done … Meanwhile we breathe this heavy smell day and night,” says Nhlapo, who lives in Zone 3.
Palm Springs was established in 1990, and yet adequate services remain a dream for the tens of thousands who live here. There are canals at the entrance to the township choked with filth. Roads are so potholed cars have to carefully navigate their way around the place.
Ntswaki Khosana, from Zone 4, said, “We have ended up creating our own dumping sites in this area, and sometimes we will burn the rubbish to flatten it.”
Yolanda Mpofu, from extension 26, said it has been years since waste was collected in Evaton West. “So we use open fields to dump … The municipality barely comes to clear illegal dumping, so as the community we try by all means to burn our refuse,” said Mpofu.
News24 reported that Eskom applied for a court order in November as the municipality owed it R5.3-billion, which it had failed to settle despite litigation dating back to 2018. In December, Eskom attached the municipality’s account and movable assets, including vehicles.
According to Municipalities of South Africa, Emfuleni is a hung council, with an ANC plurality. It has been under administration since June 2018.
Ward 100 Councillor Vusi Ramoshaba (ANC) said, “The attachment of our account and repossession of our equipment has affected the issue of how waste is collected. The Emfuleni Municipality is struggling with a huge debt with Eskom and Rand Water. We also are failing to collect revenue.
“I have no alternative and don’t know what to tell the people regarding their refuse. I am waiting on the municipality. Collection is going to happen, I just don’t know when,” said Ramoshaba.
Freedom Front Plus Councillor Gerda Senekal said, “Our problems started when the ANC-led coalition took over. They employed incompetent and inexperienced people and the municipality has been spiralling down. Last year alone, our municipality account was attached four times.”
“Many waste contractors don’t even want to work with eMfuleni anymore because they are often not paid … Even some industrial companies are pulling out of eMfuleni because of poor administration,” she said.
Mayoral spokesperson Mphikeleli Msibi said service providers were being paid.
“At no point has any of our communities gone for more than a month without collection. With unfortunate fleet limitations, the municipality has managed to collect refuse on a bi-weekly schedule and at times once in three weeks.”
”Operating with half the required fleet [of compactor trucks] means the municipality has a consistent backlog,” he said.
Msibi said ageing infrastructure and the abuse of the sewerage system caused overflows.
Msibi said it was paying the Eskom current account and “plans are in place and talks are ongoing. We are hopeful that the Eskom matter will be concluded in favour of our communities.”
Also worth noting is that at the time of publication the municipality’s website is down.