But while many concerned residents were happy the mayor had come to visit, they had bigger concerns than garbage.
“There is no facility where we can put kids to keep them off the streets, where we could teach them skills and empower them to reach their full potential,” said Pastor Shaan Napier, discussing a concern he shared with the mayor.
“We have needed this for so long, but past administrations had too much corruption, so getting land was impossible for people without influence. I hope the new leadership brings about radical transformation.”
The mayor told Napier that homelessness was a citywide problem, and that he would announce something soon to help.
Napier said he was looking forward to the mayor’s plans, but emphasised that the community wanted more than visibility: people wanted change.
Jaman Mathebula, a homeless resident of Lenasia, hopes the mayor’s visit will show him the larger scope of issues the community faces daily.
“The mayor can come and clean up, but I don’t have work, or food, or shelter,” he said. "I’m glad he’s here, so now he can see how we try to live.”
Ahmed Aly Hassan confronted the mayor about the lack of housing and medical care in the area. He said the local clinic was short-staffed, and he often had to wait hours to be seen by a clinician.
“Picking up trash doesn’t solve the problem,” he said. “This is just PR.”
The mayor told The Star that he had “no doubt” that there were bigger problems in Lenasia than trash, and cited proposed infrastructure projects that would create construction jobs as a short-term way to ease unemployment.
He also cited the increase in police officer recruitment, and said he hoped more visible policing in areas like Lenasia would make people safer.
However, he defended his emphasis on recycling, arguing that the trash issue intersected with other problems in the community, and referenced the R49.2million allocated to Pikitup in the adjustment budget to include a third cleaning shift.
“If we let the trash problem get worse, it will create health challenges and make Lenasia less enticing to businesses and investment,” he said.
“We’re also creating new jobs by adding a third shift of Pikitup, but government-created jobs can’t be the long-term solution.
"We want to enable the private sector to flourish.”
The mayor was joined by officials from various government agencies.
Thirty Pikitup officials helped community members clean illegal dumping, City Power fixed broken street lights, City Parks cut grass, and JRA addressed challenges relating to the stormwater drainage system and potholes.
The city’s adjustment budget allocates R88million for pothole repairs, and more than R24million in stormwater-related projects.
Illegal dumping costs the city R80million per year, and the city generates 1.6million tons of waste each year, which is deposited in landfill sites that are beginning to fill up.
By 2040, the city would run out of landfill space, so recycling was vital to the longevity of Joburg, the mayor said in a statement.