Informal settlement residents in Mdantsane complain of rat infestation

Residents of informal settlements in East London say that the municipality does not provide their areas with refuse removal services. All photos by Mandla Mnyakama

Residents see no way else to get rid of their rubbish than to dump it because no truck will be coming to collect it.

Residents of informal settlements in Duncan Village and Mdantsane say they have resorted to dumping their household garbage in small rivers and water passages that run through their areas because the Buffalo City Metropolitan Municipality (BCMM) refuses to collect it.

They also complain that the problem has resulted in a growing rat infestation in their wood and metal shack homes.

“This problem became intolerable to me after these fast running rascals destroyed my expensive tupperware dishes where I also kept my food. I liked my dishes very much but I had to throw them away. I could no longer use them after the damage,” complained 64-year-old Ntombizodwa Pamana, who has lived in Entilini for 33 years.

“I’m fed up with these creatures. I cannot describe how they have been destroying food as they repeatedly targeted my grocery metal bin which has got a rusted top lid. We also get frightened that they might soon spread the risk of this new corona Delta strain amongst our community if nothing is done to attend to the situation,” protested Pamana.

The mother of five said she wishes that something could be done to speedily eradicate the long-standing problem. She says that the BCMM has repeatedly ignored their pleas when they approached it for help.

Rubbish choking water passages and small rivers is a usual sight in these areas. Local residents did acknowledge their contribution to the problem but still protest that if the authorities can provide them with refuse bags to keep their household rubbish and then send its solid waste personnel to remove it to the municipal dump site near Berlin, the problem would be non-existent.

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In Duncan Village’s Ziphunzana settlement, residents who live along the rubbish overflowing water passages complain about the unbearable stench emanating from the mounds of rubbish, and the flies and mosquitoes that swarm over them.

When there are problems with the communal toilets in the settlements – typically blockages – residents relieve themselves in shopping bags and buckets to later discard the filth in the cement drains and water passages, and on the rubbish dumps piling up on their street corners along Mdantsane Access Road.

Maggots have invaded other shack homes. Nomaweza Kolisi, (33) from Entilini informal settlement at Ziphunzana, said they struggled with an endless problem of rats and maggots since the mounds of rubbish appeared in the long and windy water passage behind her one-roomed shack about two years ago after the BCMM stopped supplying refuse bags to them. 

“This looks very abnormal and visitors to the area always criticize us for being irresponsible. It is undesirable and gets worse because other residents dump faeces, I sometimes hear them discarding their soiled shopping bags and bucket containers in the early morning hours.

“Rainy days also cause us awful problems because the rain floods the passage and causes the filthy water to overflow and infiltrate our shacks,” she says.

“We don’t know why they sideline our informal settlements,” questioned Kolisi. She knows of other settlements where locals attempted to improve their area by cleaning up the mess themselves, but that occurred once in a while.

Nomaweza Kolisi shows the damage done to the bucket where she kept her groceries by rats.

In a response to Elitsha, the Buffalo City Metropolitan Municipality said that it does collect refuse from informal settlements and has employed people through the Extended Public Works Programme (EPWP) to assist with cleaning of the streets.

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“We have been dealing with illegal dumps especially in informal settlements and to curb that, the City has an initiative called adopt a spot as well as educational awareness programmes for communities to deter them from dumping as this has a bad impact on the environment. We have EPWP workers in each ward taking care of the situation almost everyday as well as Solid WASTE department to collect any generated waste from such areas. We also have community-based clean up campaigns where members of the community together with the ward councillor participate under the guidance of the department,” said BCMM spokesperson, Bathandwa Diamond.

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