Rubbish piles up in Khayelitsha street after dispute

Jafta Masemola Road strewn with litter

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Photo of women hanging washing on a fence
Zoleka Paul (front) and Nomakholwa Mselana hang their washing on the fence along Jafta Masemola Road. Photo: Tariro Washinyira

Rubbish has been piling up for weeks along Jafta Masemola Road in Khayelitsha following a dispute over a garbage collection contract.

Residents say the rubbish has not been collected for more than two months, but Mayoral Committee member for Utility Services Ernest Sonnenberg said the problem had been going on for three weeks.

When GroundUp visited the area on Thursday, Zoleka Paul and Nomakholwa Mselana were hanging their washing on the fence along the filthy main road. Litter was strewn almost everywhere.

Mselana, who has lived in the area since 2013, said: “Diseases will eventually spread from this garbage to my washing and my shack.”

“It is very dangerous and unhygienic staying here but I do not have any other option.”

Some residents blame the failure to collect garbage on Masiqhame, the company which has signed a new contract with the City of Cape Town. Zameka Mthwa, who had worked for the previous contractor, said she and others had not been employed again after a one month “probation” contract with the new company. She had not been paid or given feedback on the probation period.

“We then stopped the new people working. In fact we told them to down tools.”

But a spokesman for the company said the workers had been paid, and had been told from the beginning that it was only a one-month contract. “Now one month is over and they are refusing to leave.”

Paul said residents were burning the rubbish to clear the streets.

Sonnenberg said 29 former employees, “with the support of certain community leaders”, had been demanding that their contracts be renewed for three years, and had made “violent threats” against anyone trying to remove rubbish.

“City staff who attempted to clear the dumped waste, despite an escort from Law Enforcement, were stoned and forced to withdraw from the area.

“On Monday the contractor’s supervisors were abducted, held hostage and assaulted by these ex-workers. The City views this in a serious light, and condemns these actions in the strongest possible terms. These workers were effectively holding the community hostage in order to further their own interests.”

“Renewal of their contracts is not possible due to the provisions of the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) under which they are employed, which require new workers to be hired periodically. The rotation of workers is also a requirement set out in the tender to ensure that economic opportunity is shared among communities.”

Sonnenberg said in a meeting yesterday it had been agreed that cleansing workers would not be harmed while carrying out their duties, “although community leaders were divided on the issue”.

The rubbish collection service was due to resume today.

TOPICS:  Government Sanitation

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