Unprotected strike leaves foul stench, piles of refuse across Mamelodi

Waste collection teams are being escorted by metro police in some areas amid violent threats by strikers

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City of Tshwane workers who are SAMWU members embarked on an unprotected strike for higher salaries about five weeks ago. The strike caused major disruptions at municipal landfill sites, waste collection, and other services. Photo: Warren Mabona

Rubbish has been piling up in parts of Mamelodi, east of Pretoria, since council workers downed tools more than a month ago.

Workers affiliated to the South African Municipal Workers Union (SAMWU) embarked on an unprotected strike to demand 5.4% salaries increase. The strike caused major disruptions at municipal landfill sites, waste collection, and other services.

Last week, the City of Tshwane announced it was implementing a household catch-up plan where some waste removal teams, escorted by metro police, would begin clearing some areas of the uncollected rubbish.

GroundUp visited five sections of Mamelodi East on 28 August and found piles of full, uncollected plastic bags and litter scattered along the streets. The busy Tsamaya Avenue appeared to be the worst affected. This week, the City stated two waste collection trucks were torched within a 24-hour period.

Melita Rantu from Extension 17 said the City’s waste collection services had come to a complete halt since labour unrest began last month.

“There are people in Mamelodi who offer to remove waste from our homes, but they charge R15 per small bin full of waste. I cannot afford to pay while many other areas of Tshwane get this service for free,” said Rantu.

Another resident, Bento Sithole, who runs a small business selling vegetables, snacks and sweets in Ext 17, said the smell of rotten refuse near his stall is unbearable.

“There are many flies here. I can no longer enjoy my meals because of the bad smell. I also pay someone R15 to take my waste bin. I’m supposed to buy bread with this money,” said Sithole.

City spokesperson Lindela Mashigo referred us to a press statement released on 24 August. In it, Mayor Cilliers Brink acknowledges waste collection had been severely affected over several weeks by striking employees. He stated the new waste collection initiative has been successful so far, with over a dozen communities having already been cleaned.

However, Mamelodi East residents interviewed by GroundUp said they heard about the City’s waste collection plan, but had not yet seen signs of its implementation in their areas.

Mashigo said the Labour Court had on 28 July declared the strike unlawful and unprotected after the City had approached the court on an urgent basis to interdict the strike.

“The City has maintained its position that it cannot afford to pay the increase,” said Mashigo.

Mashigo did not confirm whether the strike had officially ended but the majority of the workers have returned to work. Questions sent to SAMWU’s Tshwane regional secretary Precious Theledi went unanswered by the time of publication.

TOPICS:  Labour Waste management

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