NEWS | JOHANNESBURG 

Rubbish piles up as workers protest

Angry former employees block garbage collection in Gauteng

Photo of pile of rubbish
Rubbish is piling up in Tshepisong on the West Rand. Photo: Zoe Postman
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Residents of Tshepisong, a neighbourhood in the West of Johannesburg, say garbage in the area has not been collected in over a month.

An open field in Tshepisong was covered in garbage when GroundUp visited the site on Thursday last week. There were several piles of rubbish in the neighbourhood with a foul smell.

This is the result of a disagreement between former employees of Jozi@Work and waste management company Pikitup.

Pikitup Communications Manager Muzi Mkhwanazi said that former Jozi@Work employees, who had cleaned the area, were preventing Pikitup from cleaning up because they wanted their contracts extended. The contracts expired in December last year.

“In some instances they block Pikitup trucks from leaving depots and in some instances they threaten Pikitup employees with violence … They confiscate cleaning equipment like bags, brooms, and also tear filled bags,” said Mkhwanazi.

A statement released by Environment and Infrastructure Councillor Nico de Jager on Tuesday said the “violent disruptions” started on Monday last week when vehicles were prevented from leaving the Marlboro depot.

“I condemn the violent disruption by a disgruntled few who knew full well that they signed temporary employment contracts, which are legally binding,” said De Jager in the statement.

Jozi@Work was a youth employment programme started in 2014 to create jobs on a rotational basis. Current Johannesburg Mayor Herman Mashaba cancelled the programme in 2016, saying that it was corrupt and only benefited a few people.

Mkhwanazi said Pikitup then hired the Jozi@Work workers on “short term poverty alleviation contracts” which were supposed to last a year.

Tshepisong resident Henrietta Thebe told GroundUp that the rubbish had not been collected since 4 January. “The rubbish is supposed to get collected twice a week, but the Jozi@Work employees are on strike, so the rubbish ends up all over”, said Thebe. “The rubbish is piling up and our kids play in it.”

Sylvia Monakale, Ward Councillor of Tshepisong, said she and other councillors had met Pikitup. “We suggested that they [Pikitup] extend the old employees’ contracts by two months, while also employing the new workers for three months, so that the strike can be resolved,” said Monakale. She said she was still waiting to hear back from Pikitup, but she hoped the situation would be sorted within the next two weeks.

Community leader Maria Ditse, who lives in an informal settlement in Tshepisong, said Monakale was “not doing enough to get help”. She said Monakale had not been communicating with community leaders so that they could update residents. Residents were “left in the dark”.

“This issue has been going on for a long time. The area is stinking, and people are going to get sick. We are not safe here,” said Ditse.

The City and Pikitup urged residents to assist them by “bagging dumped waste and placing the full bags in identified areas in their wards where collection will be arranged”.

Mkhwanazi said an emergency meeting with all concerned had been called. Other areas like Sandton and Alexandra have also been affected.

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