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Joburg’s trash-in-transit heists

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A frame grab posted on Facebook shows Pikitup workers collecting rubbish and stealing the wheelie bins.

Johannesburg - Pikitup workers are stealing bins from Joburg residents – and they have been caught on camera.

Infuriated residents are being forced to buy their replacement bins from Pikitup for R475 because the refuse collector’s staff won’t empty non-Pikitup-branded bins if residents’ are stolen or damaged.

To add insult to injury, Pikitup is deleting videos of the thefts posted on its Facebook page. Kensington resident Lee Cahill, who has been uploading the videos and negative comments about the bin thefts, has been blocked by Pikitup administrators from the page.

Cahill captured the refuse removal workers on video, putting two bins into the garbage truck instead of just emptying them. She is outraged and believes they are being sold back to residents.

Her neighbours have also caught the workers on CCTV cameras stealing the bins.

Cahill says her municipal wheelie bin was stolen in December. “It took me two weeks to get through to the city’s helpline to report this and to request a replacement. I was advised that I would need to go in to the Braamfontein service centre and pay R475 in cash before I could receive a new bin.

“I was told Pikitup can’t debit my municipal account for a new bin and doesn’t accept electronic transfers. I am self-employed and can’t afford to sit for hours in a line just to pay for a new bin. As Pikitup won’t collect my refuse if it’s only in garbage bags, even though I pay for refuse collection, I bought a replacement, with a valid serial number on it, from a hardware store at a cost of R610. However, when Pikitup staff arrived for collection, they asked for a bribe to empty the bin because it was an incorrectly branded bin,” she said.

“I have now been banned from posting or commenting because I’ve been complaining about their crews stealing bins and asking for bribes. That’s city government in Joburg for you – avoid the issue, ignore the complainant and, when that doesn’t work, block them.

“I am going to post the thefts on YouTube so the whole world can see what thieves and plunderers are running our city,” she said.

Cahill said she noted other complaints about stolen bins being deleted on Facebook daily. Another resident, who did not want to be named, said his bin was stolen and he was refusing to pay R475.

“I can’t sit at home all day and watch my bin. So I stole a neighbour’s bin and painted my house number on it.

“I know it is wrong but what happens if I have a bin a week stolen, which is possible?” he asked.

Barry Jammy of Parkwood is also furious because workers damaged his bin and he has to pay R950 for two new ones.

“About six months ago, and within a short time of each other, the lids of the bins were detached during scheduled Monday collections and disappeared, presumably being pitched mechanically with the contents of the bins, into the refuse trucks. The bins have been without lids since then, with obvious hygienic ramifications,” he said.

He has written to Pikitup requesting replacements or repair, has met with no response, and telephone messages are being ignored.

“I have at no stage been furnished with a reference number. The lack of cover over the bins is exacerbated by the current heatwave and intermittent rain, with swarms of flies and other insects attracted to the unprotected refuse, which piles up during each week,” he said.

Pikitup says it strongly condemns any kind of stealing by its employees, and “is contrary to the kind of service we are striving to deliver for the residents of Joburg”.

Pikitup spokesman, Pansy Oyedele, said anyone caught stealing would face strong internal disciplinary action, followed by criminal charges.

“We encourage anyone with proof on cases of theft by our employees to contact our call centre. When residents want to report any incident, they should take note of the truck’s number- plate that services them on the day, the date and time, so we can better manage the complaints to their respective resolution,” she said.

Regarding damage to bins, should there be evidence of staff damaging a bin, Pikitup would have to ascertain whether the damage had been caused by its compacter lifters, staff or residents, and each case would be decided on its merits.

Should these claims prove Pikitup was responsible, a replacement bin would be issued free of charge.

She did not comment on the removal of Facebook complaints, despite being requested to do so.

How to get a new bin

If the customer is responsible, the customer should:

* Log a call or query with the call centre and get a reference number.

* Make a payment at the nearest walk-in centre.

* E-mail or fax proof of payment to Pikitup customer services on 086 677 6682.

Pikitup will then:

*Scan and e-mail proof of payment, the customer’s statement of account and reference to the relevant depot.

* Prepare documentation for the delivery of the bin and agree on a delivery date with the customer.

If a bin is broken or stolen by Pikitup staff, and no payment is necessary, residents should:

* Log a call or query with the call centre and get a reference number.

* Obtain an affidavit from their nearest police station which must include the reference number, truck registration details, date and time of incident.

* Submit an affidavit to the relevant depot.

The depot regional manager will then:

* Assess the complaint, compile a report and decide whether to replace the bin based on this.

* Contact the customer to agree on a delivery date.

For further information contact Joburg Connect on 0860 562 874 or 011 375 5555 and select option 4 for Pikitup or visit the nearest walk-in centre.anna.cox@inl.co.za

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