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Refuse collection halted in Gugulethu amid escalating demand for protection fees

A boy wearing a face shield runs past a heap of refuse-filled blue bags which sits on the side of the road.

Refuse collection has been halted in several areas on the Cape Flats. Picture: Tracey Adams/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Oct 3, 2023


Cape Town – In a major blow for residents on the Cape Flats, the City of Cape Town has withdrawn refuse collection services in Gugulethu because of increasing incidents of extortion.

Collections teams in the area on Tuesday morning reported that they were being followed by vehicles of armed men.

According to the municipality, this trend extended to other areas such as Philippi East, Lower Crossroads and Nyanga.

Last Thursday, the City’s refuse collection crew was working in Fenqe Street in Nyanga when they were approached by eight armed men who demanded a “protection fee” for the workers to have safe passage through the area, and robbed one staff member.

The City said it needed to safeguard its staff and the withdrawal of the service was a temporary measure.

Urban Waste mayoral committee (mayco) member Grant Twigg said: “The City’s Urban Waste Management (UWM) Directorate urgently calls on the SAPS to investigate and to take urgent action against the perpetrators of these schemes. Criminals cannot be allowed to hijack service delivery in this way.”

The urban waste directorate said it was exploring ways to restore services as soon as possible including continuing to work with the Safety and Security Directorate.

Residents were urged to refrain from dumping uncollected waste, and to watch the City’s social media channels for updates about clearing existing backlogs in the area, or possible adjusted waste collection schedules.

The City said that services were also temporarily withdrawn because of a flare-up of gang violence in Manenberg.

“Any backlog that develops will be cleared as soon as UWM is advised that the area is again safe to operate.”

Western Cape police spokesperson Andrè Traut said extortion was on the Western Cape police’s priority list.

“All endeavours to root out the phenomena are explored. Besides a dedicated Extortion Task Team whose mandate it is to investigate cases of this nature, various other police units are assigned to combat the tendency due to the close links with gangs and the taxi industry. Cases that have been reported to SAPS are currently under investigation and some of these cases are being heard in court. Due to the sensitive nature of our investigations, the finer details cannot be divulged at this stage,” said Traut.

A 24-hour toll-free extortion hot line, 08600 31 44 44, can be used to report extortion. Callers may remain anonymous.

Cape Times