Heaps of rubbish causing a stink in Durban’s informal settlements

City workers come on Mondays to clean the streets and put the refuse in piles making sure it is ready for collection the next day, in Kenville informal settlement, north of Durban. All photos by Nokulunga Majola

Residents of informal settlements in Durban complain of a lack of refuse collection while the city points fingers at them for illegal dumping.

Many areas in and around eThekwini are choked with filth. According to eThekwini Municipality, illegal dumping and littering remain serious issues for the city as it impacts the environment in negative ways. Even though the city collects refuse, residents still dump their waste illegally, especially in informal settlements.

Malacca informal settlement in Redhill is close to to the city dumpsite and people who arrive after it closes sometimes dump their refuse on the road. Thabiso Shusha, chairperson of a Malacca committee, says, “You find garbage strewn all over the place but sometimes city workers are seen on Saturdays or Sundays cleaning and collecting garbage. We have an illegal dump behind the ablution facilities but we are hoping it will be cleared out soon because the new ward councillor and city officials came to inspect the area and said they would be back to clean it,” says Shusha.

He says the dump has been in existence as long as he can remember. Refuse gets collected on Wednesday in this settlement, though residents complain that they have to purchase their own refuse bags.

Dumile Magaqa of Khabazela Village in Avoca says the city collects refuse every Tuesday but dumping continues anyway. “I am also concerned about illegal dumping. Residents dump their trash on vacant land or at street corners. The smell from the trash is unbearable, you find sometimes that it is not residents who dump here but people from other areas,” says Magaqa.

Near the ablution facilities at Malacca informal settlement in Redhill Durban. It has been an illegal dump site for years.

In other areas, residents complain that Durban Solid Waste (DSW) workers don’t collect refuse in certain streets. Dogs tear uncollected garbage bags and when DSW staff arrive, they only remove bags that are intact, so the pile of garbage grows.

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However, in KwaMathambo informal settlement recently, residents decided to clean-up the illegal dump and turn it into a garden. The illegal dump had been that way for years and become a health hazard for residents. Ndodeni Dengo, committee member, said the open space across from the settlement had become a site where people dumped beds, couches and other things. “The city collects refuse every Thursday but leaves things like rubble and beds which creates an illegal dump site,” says Dengo.

Last month, Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) public representatives, Clr Mduduzi Nkosi, chairperson of the IFP’s eThekwini task team, Clr Thembinkosi Biyela, and Joshua Mazibuko, a member of the provincial legislature and secretary of the task team visited various areas in eThekwini, including Mayville, Umlazi and Isipingo, to see the levels of garbage.

In a statement issued after their visit, Mazibuko said: “eThekwini Municipality’s failure to ensure consistent collection of garbage and general cleanliness in the Metro is rapidly putting residents at great risk of disease and death.”

An illegal dump alongside Amanqe Avenue in Ntuzuma E, north of Durban. Refuse has over the years fallen into the stream beneath the bridge. Residents say outsiders are dumping in the area as their refuse is being collected by the city on a weekly basis.

eThekwini Municipality said the issue of illegal dumping has been ongoing due to the influx of people moving into informal settlements. “We try our level best to ensure that all refuse is collected, and clean ups are conducted. Trash not only clogs up our stormwater drains but also washes up in our rivers and oceans, which is a danger to all marine life. Illegal dumping could also cause accidents on the road and poses serious environmental health issues…. We ask that our residents refrain from illegal dumping,” said city spokesperson, Mandla Nsele.

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According to the eThekwini Municipality, there are by-laws that provide for penalties for people caught red handed, however in an informal settlement the socio-economic factors are complex, and perpetrators usually dump at night to avoid detection. Illegal dumping fines can go up to R5,000. “It is the mandate of the city to provide a refuse removal service in all areas, informal settlements included,” Nsele said.

He said where illegal dumping is concerned, once DSW has been alerted, they visit the dumping site and assess the situation. “Staff then engage with the residents and/ or businesses surrounding the area and advise them on correct waste management practices and ask them to take ownership of the community. They also clear the illegal dumping and where budget allows, and as need arises, they may erect ‘No Illegal Dumping’ signboard.

“In our efforts to maintain a clean and sustainable city, we urge residents to continue reporting illegal dumping to 031-311-8804 and be responsible by ensuring that their neighbourhood is kept clean by taking care of the environment and not littering. We also call on all residents to be champions of change and stop littering as well as illegal dumping,” Nsele said.

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