Refuse removal contractors operating in uMlazi were allegedly overcharging the city for services rendered, leading to the depletion of a six-month budget allocation in just two months.
These were the claims made by municipal officials who said this was why the city had not paid them.
This led to contractors embarking on a protest that wreaked havoc in the township during yesterday’s morning rush hour, as piles of rubbish were dumped all over the township’s main road, the Mangosuthu Highway.
The protest led to a major traffic jam, with some residents claiming it took them more than an hour to make their way out of the township as vehicles had to navigate through piles of rubbish.
A source at the municipality, who declined to be named, said the funds claimed by the contractors were way more than what had been agreed to in the contracts.
“To say they exceeded what was expected is an understatement. Some of the invoices had ballooned by more than 400%,” said the official.
Two officials who spoke to The Mercury claimed that about R45 million had been depleted in two months because of this.
They asked not to be named as they are not authorised to speak to the media.
Responding to questions, eThekwini Municipality spokesperson Tozi Mthethwa said: “The city pays for the services rendered by contractors and/or service providers daily, provided the work delivered is of acceptable standard, as per the signed contract, and the information contained in the invoice is accurate,” she said
However, a contractor said the work in the community had been “much larger than we had agreed on, and there was an understanding that we should continue with the work”.
City bosses were on Tuesday looking at options in order to pay the contractors by the end of the week as per their agreement, to resolve the impasse.
One of the subcontractors, who declined to be named, said while they were not happy with making residents “collateral damage”, they had no choice as they felt they needed to be heard.
“We might decide to protest again this morning (Wednesday). This thing of dumping rubbish like this all over the township is not nice, but we need to be heard. Violence is the only language South Africa understands,” he said.
The source said about 32 companies were subcontracting from four main contractors.
“Some of the workers have not been paid since December, others since January, and none of us have been paid for February.
We understand that the main contractor has no money.”
Residents were irate at waking up to the piles of rubbish on the township’s main road.
“This situation is not acceptable. If they are angry about their wages, they should approach the eThekwini mayor (Zandile Gumede) directly and raise their concerns with her.
“We have nothing to do with this,” said resident Dumisani Nzama.
Mthethwa apologised on behalf of the municipality, saying residents would be informed when refuse collection resumed.
“The municipality urges residents to keep all refuse within their property boundaries to avoid litter from spreading all over,” she said.