Protection racket halts toilet cleaning in Khayelitsha

Service provider withdrew after threats at gunpoint and extortion attempts

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Bucket toilets in France informal settlement in Khayelitsha have not been collected for almost two weeks resulting in an unbearable smell. Photo: Sandiso Phaliso

  • Toilets have not been cleaned for weeks and rubbish is piling up for months in Khayelitsha’s informal settlements.
  • Mshengu Toilet Hire withdrew services after extortionists demanded tens of thousands of rands to allow the company to operate.
  • Rubbish collection has also stopped since July in some areas due to contractual problems.

Toilets have not been cleaned for weeks, bucket toilets have not been collected, and rubbish is piling up in informal settlements in Khayelitsha. This comes after service providers withdrew their workers because protection rackets are demanding tens of thousands of rands before they will allow the companies to operate.

Sanitation workers were robbed at gunpoint on 26 October in France informal settlement and on 24 October in Noxolo Xawuka, Khayelitsha.

A Mshengu Toilet Hire manager, who later asked that we not use their name, said they fear for their lives.

A supervisor said the extortionists are demanding that their bosses pay R50,000 upfront and then R15,000 to R30,000 monthly. The extortionists even offered to meet company officials to discuss the terms.

On Monday, residents angered by weeks of lack of services burned tyres and rubbish and emptied bucket toilets, pouring faeces on Japhta Masemola Road, Baden Powell Drive and the N2.

They say they are living with an unbearable stench. The situation has become so desperate that some residents are paying people between R20 and R50 to dispose of their waste for them. Human waste is being dumped at night in streams and stormwater drains, at illegal dumping sites and bushy areas. People are complaining they even find faeces dumped on their doorsteps.

This is the situation in numerous informal settlements, including QQ, RR, BM, Taiwan, France, Wetlands, Island, Sinako, Sanitizer and Noxolo Xawuka.

Stagnant water in front of resident Sindiswa Koni’s yard is being used by some France informal settlement residents as a dumping site for their uncollected bucket toilets. Photo: Sandiso Phaliso

There are 150 bucket toilets in France meant to be serviced by 13 janitors and four “pullovers” (who load the buckets on a truck).

Sindiswa Koni, who lives near a drain, said, “Everyday I have to clean in front of my yard because people at night throw human waste here.”

Nonqaba Nelani said they have been using the bucket system since 1998. “We don’t understand that 25 years later … we are still using the bucket system. All the buckets are full and the smell is unbearable.”

“We feel we are forgotten,” said Thelma Sipili. “Since the dawn of democracy we are still using the apartheid bucket system.”

Speaking about Noxolo Xawuka, community leader Lami Mngqeleni said their toilets had not been cleaned for three weeks. He said 700 families shared 50 toilets.

He said garbage was also not being collected and an illegal dump was developing at the local primary school.

Mayco Member for Water and Sanitation Councillor Zahid Badroodien told GroundUp that the City is trying to find a way to resolve the problem, “such as providing security escorts within available resources to accompany teams”.

Sergeant Wesley Twigg of SAPS Western Cape media said there was an ongoing investigation for the incident of 24 October. He said there is an extortion reporting hotline on 0800 31 4444.

Rubbish has been piling up for weeks at Island informal settlement, Makhaza, after the service provider withdrew due to threats and extortion attempts. Photo: Vincent Lali

Rubbish piling up

In addition to the human waste problem, rubbish has been piling up in a number of the informal settlements. Island community leader Wendy Nkewu said rubbish was last collected in her area in June.

When we visited we found shipping containers full of rubbish and a disgusting stench.

Nkewu said police refuse to patrol the area because the settlement’s two roads are in such bad condition.

Ward 96 Councillor Lucky Mbiza (ANC) said, “The residents kicked out a cleaning company called Mega Ndira in June. They want only a cleaning company that will employ them.”

Mayco Member for Urban Waste Management Alderman Grant Twigg said there had been refuse removal since July, but “not at the normal weekly standards”.

Twigg said the City had intended to implement a new Expanded Public Works driven programme for cleansing services in informal settlements from 1 July but it has faced a legal challenge.

“In the meantime, the City will continue to clear refuse in affected areas using its own resources as regularly as possible until new contractors have been appointed. At this stage it is anticipated that contractors will start in December 2023.”

TOPICS:  Crime Policing Sanitation

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