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Garbage piles up in Cape Town suburbs as taxi strike drags on

Garbage piles up in Cape Town suburbs as taxi strike drags on
The small suburb of Observatory in Cape Town is usually bustling with commuters, residents and students. Owing to the taxi strike the streets and stores are empty. (Photo: Samane Junior Marks)

Tuesday marked Day 6 of the taxi strike in the Western Cape. Daily Maverick visited the suburb of Observatory and found that residents were grappling with rubbish piling up and businesses were concerned about a drop in income owing to disruptions and stayaways. 

Petrol stations, businesses and residents in Observatory are feeling the pinch six days into the taxi strike in and around Cape Town. 

The protest, which began last Thursday, has continued amid a breakdown in talks between the South African National Taxi Council (Santaco) and the provincial government.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Counting the costs — economic fears set in after five days of Western Cape taxi strike

Observatory, better known as Obs, is usually bustling with activity. Most of its restaurants, bars and shops are found along Lower Main Road.

In the wake of violence linked to the taxi strike, which saw two people killed, the streets of Obs were eerily quiet on Tuesday.

Daily Maverick visited a petrol station on Main Road, a key public transport route, less than six kilometres from the CBD. One of the managers said the past few days had been “a complete nightmare” as many of his staff were left stranded. 

“My staff members live far away … they were left here with no way to get home. This has put us under a lot of pressure. Some had to sleep here while we adapted to keep things moving.” 

Very few cars arrived to fill up while we were there.

“This strike has taken a toll on us… we’re really struggling now. It is tough because now we can’t make any contingency plans. This strike was unforeseen – one minute it is quiet, the next a furore breaks out.” 

Read more of Daily Maverick’s coverage on the strike 

Taxi strike impact on Observatory

Household waste has not been collected in Observatory. Bins are piling up and the neighbourhood is starting to smell. (Photo: Samane Junior Marks)

‘No work, no pay’ 

Shell Groote Schuur service station lies further down Main Road.

During our visit, Ni-shaat, who lives in Woodstock, spoke to Daily Maverick about how the strike had affected her family and her job. 

“My uncle works in Mitchells Plain as a carpenter … On Monday he was driving to Elsies River along the Govan Mbeki road in Nyanga when someone threw a brick into his windscreen – a second one hit him in the face and he lost consciousness and the car rolled.” 

When her uncle regained consciousness, he had been robbed of his phone, keys and tools that were in his car. This was before medical personnel arrived on the scene.

“I was saddened by the incidents I read about online… little did I know that my uncle had fallen victim as well,” she said. 

“I can’t avoid going to work because I worry about losing my job. Unfortunately, there is little anyone can do about this. Our entire existence is at risk. The company will operate at a loss if I don’t come in, but we are all trying to make ends meet. My safety comes first.” 

Read more in Daily Maverick: Western Cape taxi strike Day 6 – Ramaphosa’s Women’s Day address shifts to Pretoria from ‘high-risk’ Cape Town

Employees working at filling stations have been unable to travel to work because of the ongoing taxi strike. It’s affecting businesses across the city. (Photo: Samane Junior Marks)

Bins pile up

Amogelang Masango, a resident of Obs for more than three years, said there is nowhere to discard trash. Uncollected bins and piles of garbage line the streets.

“We have two large bins in the house that fill up after seven days… I share the property with eight housemates. Normally, garbage collectors come to pick them up on Mondays. Now we have nowhere to put our trash,” she said. 

“The stench is becoming unbearable and engulfing the entire area. The issue also affects our neighbours. It is difficult everywhere in Obs because the garbage bins are overflowing. This strike needs to end immediately. It has gotten out of control.” DM

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