Uncollected rubbish bags befoul the streets in the inner city.| Picture: Karen Sandison African News Agency (ANA)
Uncollected rubbish bags befoul the streets in the inner city.| Picture: Karen Sandison African News Agency (ANA)

Joburg's inner city overflowing with rubbish, smell of urine

By Sameer Naik Time of article published Jan 4, 2020

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Mounds of rotting garbage lie piled

on the streets of Johannesburg’s business district. 

The distinct smell of urine and rubbish lingers in the air in the hub of commercial and retail activity.

While these terrible sights are nothing new to the inner city, it seems things have become far worse during the festive period.

Piles of rubbish, that have built up over several weeks, remain in the same spots they were left in at some of the CBD’s main intersections.

Many bags have also been ripped open which has resulted in rubbish being spewed all over the streets.

While Pikitup - the city’s official waste-management service - has promised swift action, with a second festive season clean-up operation under way today, the SA Municipal Workers' Union (Samwu) fears the piles could remain a problem for months to come.

Uncollected rubbish bags befoul the streets in the inner city.| Picture: Karen Sandison African News Agency (ANA)

Newly elected managing director

of Pikitup, Buki Njingolo, said the waste management service has been working hard to clean up the streets of Joburg.

“We are putting a concerted effort in dealing with the grime in the inner city,” Njingolo told the Saturday Star.

“We have deployed a 24/7 operation made up of a three-day shift for waste collection.

“Other stakeholders and city departments like the Johannesburg Metro Police Department are assisting us with by-law enforcement... with block by block operations.”

Njingolo added that they were calling on developers, property owners, business forums, traders, taxi associations and other interest groups to assist them with the clean-up.

“Pikitup has always maintained that without the participation of all stakeholders it would almost be impossible to keep the city clean.

“It is against this backdrop that Pikitup calls on the hawkers, who

are key stakeholders in our efforts to keep the city clean, businesses and residents of the inner city to also join the clean-up operation in larger numbers to ensure the event is a success.”

Uncollected rubbish bags befoul the streets in the inner city.| Picture: Karen Sandison African News Agency (ANA)

Samwu has, however, blamed

the increase in garbage during the festive season due to poor management by Pikitup.

“First and foremost we have to understand that it’s the festive

period. During this period employees are on leave. They are all migrant workers, so most employees have

gone to their respective provinces where they come from, so there is a shortage of workers,” said spokesperson Papikie Mohale

“There is also an issue with Pikitup, in the sense that there are a lot of vacancies that have yet to be filled, so unless Pikitup fill those vacancies, it’s a kind of situation we are going to see for a long time in the city of Johannesburg.”

Mohale said the shortage of staff, however, is not due to Samwu workers being on strike.

“We should put it on record that there is currently no action from our side, no protests or strike action. It’s purely the fact that there’s just no staff to work.

“Also what makes the situation more difficult, is that the City of Joburg, like all municipalities, uses the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) for mostly the collection and disposal of waste between the city.

“Those workers have stopped working somewhere in the middle of December that’s when they concluded work for the year in 2019.

“That raises questions on our side. Why is it that the city is delivering services through the use of EPWP instead of employing those workers permanently?

“We have so many vacancies that haven’t been filled.

"If those vacancies were filled those people would be at work and they would be a large contingent of workers who are currently making sure the city is clean.”

Uncollected rubbish bags befoul the streets in the inner city.| Picture: Karen Sandison African News Agency (ANA)

Mohale expects the rubbish problem to continue well after the festive season is over should Pikitup not fill the available vacancies.

“I was in the city centre yesterday and I noticed the large piles of garbage. This poses a health hazard for the residents of Joburg,” said Mohale.

“The only way that this can be sorted is if more people are employed. Until such time we will have such a problem within the city.

“Unless that’s done we are seriously heading for a challenge that would affect all of us.

“And this will not only affect the city centre but it’s bound to happen all over in Joburg.

“Obviously we are seeing it more noticeably in the city centre because of the number of people that are there, but the northern and southern suburbs face the same situation.

“People are complaining about

the inadequate collection of refuse from Pikitup.

“The blame cannot be put on our members and our municipal workers that they are not doing their job.”

Uncollected rubbish bags befoul the streets in the inner city.| Picture: Karen Sandison African News Agency (ANA)

Meanwhile, the DA has also blamed Pikitup for the build up of garbage.

“Apparently, some of the Pikitup trucks are broken, a factor which the city administration has cited as the reason for the backlog,” said caucus leader in Joburg Funzi Ngobeni.

“We hope this will be sorted very soon so that the work of keeping our environment clean can resume.”

Ngobeni added, however, that they believe the inner-city urban management issues run far deeper than just the broken Pikitup trucks.

“The degeneration of the inner city into a lawless slum has become a big factor.

“As you’ll know, the DA-led

administration was in the process of reversing this through it’s

multi-pronged inner city regeneration programme which, among other things, included A Re Sebetseng - an initiative to encourage all of Johannesburg’s residents to take care of the environment.

"It seeks to promote a culture of reducing, reusing, and recycling our waste to ensure Johannesburg becomes one of the cleanest large cities in Africa.

“We hope the new administration will see through the inner city regeneration programme that had already gained huge momentum.”

The Saturday Star 

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