Disgruntled refuse removal workers went on a rampage in uMlazi blocking the Mangosuthu Highway with bags full of rubbish. Picture: Motshwari Mofokeng/African News Agency(ANA)

Durban - eThekwini municipality councillors on Thursday unanimously agreed to stop outsourcing waste collection contracts in the city’s largest former township of Umlazi. 

The decision was taken during a full council sitting at Durban City Hall on the basis that there had been continuous waste management disruptions since December 2017, with the most recent taking place this month. 

The disruptions, according to the report tabled at council, posed a health hazard as waste often went for weeks uncollected. This was as a result of contractors disputing payment with the city, which often ran into tens of millions of rands a month.

Four of the main companies that landed the contracts - Omphile Thabang Projects, Ilanga LaMahlase Projects Pty Ltd, Uzuzinekele Trading 31 cc and El Shaddai Holdings Group cc - and then sub-contracted the work to others, were also linked to the ongoing criminal investigations into city mayor Zandile Gumede.

Gumede, senior councillor Mondli Mthembu, two city officials and several business owners are facing graft charges linked to a R208 million Durban Solid Waste (DSW) contract dating back to 2016. The matter is expected to be back in court in August.

The waste management services will now be handled by the DSW department, with extra staff expected to be hired.

“[I]t has been acknowledged that the engagement of external contractors at Umlazi has caused negative unintended consequences and has impacted negatively on the city’s image,” said the report tabled at council.

While the decision was supported by opposition parties, the DA’s Bheka Ntuli said plans to create “supernumerary positions” within DSW to hire staff to service Umlazi would probably be used to employ ANC members.

He also warned the city of action by “business forums” who were known for demanding city contracts by force.

“Umlazi's streets are filthy, stinking and this has been going on for years. City Manager (Sipho Nzuza) - you were born and raised in Umlazi. Does it ever bother you that as we speak our children are playing near tons of garbage. You know very well that people in Umlazi don’t deserve this," said Ntuli.

The ANC’s chief whip, Nelly Nyanisa, said the ANC had been working on resolving the impasse for several months and believed the insourcing of the waste collection service was the best solution.

She said the ANC was “a caring government”  and had listened to the complaints of residents.

The outsourcing will end on July 1.

African News Agency (ANA)