Garbage piling up in Cape Town townships as extortion gangs drive out City contractors

In some areas of Phillipi East rubbish has not been collected for nine months

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Photo of rubbish and a taxi

Samora Machel residents say they have been using this part of Oliver Tambo Drive as a dumping site because their rubbish bins has not been collected for months. Photos: Sandiso Phaliso

On almost every corner in Samora Machel, Philippi East and Browns Farm in Cape Town, rubbish is piling up. There is so much rubbish that some streets, such as Hart Lane and Oliver Tambo Drive, have narrowed and garbage is blocking their storm drains. Plastic, discarded cardboard, rotten food, nappies, old clothes and shoes, and even broken electric appliances litter the township streets. There are places where rubbish hasn’t been cleared for many months.

People living in informal settlements say their only option is to establish illegal dumping sites on open land or to throw their rubbish out next to their homes.

People here say they are sick of living in filth, with flies, maggots and rodents. They worry about the health of their children. They are angry but helpless.

Violent crime and extortion gangs demanding fees have forced cleaning companies contracted by the City – Wastemark and Ithalomso – to withdraw their services.

Wastemark did not reply to us, while Ithalomso referred us to the City.

It took the City of Cape Town over a week to respond to our questions.

City of Cape Town spokesperson Luthando Tyhalibongo said, “Over the past nine months there have been serious challenges with refuse collection throughout Philippi East due to violent extortion. This has caused the contractor for refuse collection at formal properties to pull out of the area.”

“The City has been collecting waste at the formal properties using a combination of borrowed resources from other areas and newly-hired vehicles.”

Tyhalibongo said law enforcement is needed to escort workers.

“Illegal dumping was always a challenge around this area. However recent extortion challenges and ensuing service disruptions have exacerbated the situation,” he said.

“The City previously commissioned an independent investigation into waste management service challenges and is currently following due process in this regard,” he said.

Meanwhile, community leader Monwabisi Hewu says, “We are living like pigs … It is embarrassing.”

“We tried so many times to ask the City of Cape Town to intervene but nothing is forthcoming.”

Nokulunga Phila, of Philippi East, said it has been more than nine months since her area was cleaned. “There must be solutions to this because at the end of the day the residents are suffering,” she said.

This is one of many areas in Kosovo informal settlement in Samora Machel that has not been cleaned for months, because it is too dangerous for workers of the company contracted by the City of Cape Town to clean the area.

TOPICS:  Crime Sanitation

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