Outsourcing waste collection leads to illegal dumping in Khayelitsha

A new waste collection company has been working since 1 May to clear the piles of accumulated rubbish, according to the city. Photo by Vincent Lali

Workers providing cleaning services to the City of Cape Town through an outsourced company were not paid their salaries for three months.

Residents are contending with the stench of uncollected rubbish following two months without any waste collection as the workers employed by the company contracted to collect rubbish are strike over non-payment. The city said it terminated Mbolompo’s contract last month because the outsourced company was ‘in breach of contract’. The city refused to explain how the company breached the contract, saying the dismissal of the company “is a contractual matter between the parties, and the city is not in a position to disclose details.”

However, at a meeting held with the striking cleaners at Khayelitsha Training Center, Cape Town’s head of Solid Waste Management, Sonwabo Kinana said the city could not pay Mbolompo Property Experts because its invoice didn’t meet the city’s requirements.

Samwu is concerned that the city
tends to put most of its permanent
functions out to tender

Hlalanathi Gagayi, Western Cape spokesperson for South African Municipal Workers Union, said, “As a union, we are concerned with how the city tends to put most of its functions of a permanent nature on tender like in the case of solid waste. Our view is that the municipality should insource these functions because these functions that are outsourced are contributing towards difference between the haves and have-nots.”

Gagayi said tenderpreneurs get money from the city but they don’t pay workers appropriately. “Our view is that the functions ought to be permanent because the members that are working for these private companies don’t even get half of what municipal workers get,” he said. Gagayi pointed out that rubbish collection does not require special skills but that this should not make these jobs precarious. Putting waste collection out to tender only adds a layer of management to pay, he argued, and waste collectors should be made permanent municipal workers.

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Today the city confirmed that an “alternate contractor for informal settlement cleansing services  in Wards 95, 96, 97, 98, 99 in Khayelitsha, and those in the Strand and Sir Lowry’s pass areas started work on 1 May 2024. The contractor is Ithalomso.”

‘Rats are breaking into our shacks’

Shipping containers in which residents usually store their rubbish are overflowing, causing residents to make new illegal dumps in their areas. Nkululeko Mantyi, a member of Town Two SANCO committee, said heaps of uncollected rubbish serve as hideouts for rodents. ‘’Rodents come out of the uncollected rubbish, invade our shacks, eat our groceries and damage our pieces of furniture,’’ he said. “The rodents burst into our shacks and give our kids a fright. They deprive them of sleep because they bite them once they sleep.’’

“Rubbish is scattered
all over the place here
because no one picks it up”

Kids come into contact with ARVs, expired and used medications when they play near dumped rubbish. Mantyi said: “I saw kids injecting each other with injections dumped by residents with diabetes on the illegal tip. Our kids are going to get diseases and die prematurely.” He singled out a plastic bag stuffed with women’s bloodied sanitary pads and left on an illegal dump to be torn up by dogs and the contents scattered around. “Our kids saw the dirty pads,” he said.

The uncollected rubbish is now rotting because it has been kept in shipping containers for too long. “Maggots crawl out of the shipping containers and move into our shacks.” He and other residents want the city to send them disinfectants to reduce the smell from the uncollected rubbish and chemicals to kill flies, maggots and rodents. “We can’t burn the rubbish because it is close to our shacks. They will catch fire if we burn it.”

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Zelda Makeleni, Lansdowne Road community leader, said uncollected rubbish has become unmanageable in Lansdown Road as well. “We stuff rubbish in bags and place them beside the road, but the municipal truck doesn’t collect it. As a result, dogs tear the rubbish bags and scatter it,” she said.

Makeleni said: “The rubbish includes things that we use every day. We don’t have a place to store it because all the shipping containers are already full.”

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