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RUBBISH RUCKUS

Cape Town contract waste collection workers down tools over unpaid wages dating to January

Cape Town contract waste collection workers down tools over unpaid wages dating to January
Rubbish continues to pile up in Cape Town communities after workers downed tools over unpaid wages. These pictures were taken in Lwandle, Strand where workers are protesting over unpaid wages, on 18 March 2024. (Photo: Velani Ludidi)

Waste collection challenges continue in Cape Town with workers now stopping work over unpaid wages since January. 

The City of Cape Town continues to face waste collection challenges. This time, waste collection workers in Khayelitsha, Strand, and Sir Lowry’s Pass have gone on strike over non-payment of salaries, with some stating that they have yet to receive payment since January.

The rubbish collectors have been blocking roads with rubbish and police have had to use rubber bullets to disperse the protesting workers. These protests have been happening randomly over the past two weeks. The Municipality confirmed that the affected areas are informal settlements in Wards 95, 96, 97, 98 and 99 in Khayelitsha, and those in the Strand and Sir Lowry’s Pass areas.

Daily Maverick visited Strand and saw rubbish on the roads with vehicles having to manoeuvre through it. Some rubbish plastic bags were being ravaged by hungry dogs looking for something to eat while residents from informal settlements were jumping over rubbish while walking to their houses.

The committee for waste and water services awarded the contract for the cleaning of these areas to Mbolompo Properties, a company owned by Sabelo Mbolompo, a former DA councillor. He did not return to the council after the 2021 local government elections after not being reelected.

waste collection

Rubbish piling up in Cape Town communities. (Photo: Velani Ludidi)

Unpaid workers

“In January we were not paid,” said Dumsani Bongwana from Strand. “Some people were paid half of their salaries and in March we decided to stop working until this is resolved.”

Bongwana said most of them have been surviving by borrowing money from loan sharks who charge 50% interest over a month and failure to pay results in another 50% interest for every missed month.

“We have families, we were getting paid every fortnight when we were contracted under the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP). Challenges started when we were transferred to this contractor.”

Workers in Khayelitsha confirmed on Monday that they were paid half of their salaries and a promise was made that they would get the other half by the end of the month. They have since returned to work. In Strand, only a few returned to work with others demanding their full salaries.

Mbolompo when called for a comment, said there was no crisis with his company and that workers were at work. “They (workers) must tell you the full story.” When asked what the full story was, he declined to say.

Waste collection

Waste collection workers in Cape Town say they have not been paid since January. (Photo: Velani Ludidi)

CoCT responds

In response to Daily Maverick’s questions, the City of Cape Town said they are pursuing its recourse in terms of the contract.

“The City has not released any payment to contractors who are not paying workers. The City is working to resolve this in the interest of the communities as expeditiously as possible.”

The Urban Waste Management Directorate is grappling with issues of collapsed waste collection. The executive director of the Urban Waste Management Directorate Luzuko Mdunyelwa is currently suspended and facing disciplinary action because of this issue.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Cape Town waste management director suspended as communities drown in trash

Daily Maverick understands that at a special confidential meeting last month, Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis confirmed that contractors were hired to help collect waste from townships across Cape Town, at a cost of about R500-million. The contracts, which were renewed monthly, started in July 2021 and ran until June 2023.

Waste collection in informal settlements has largely been conducted by external service providers, but rubbish continued to pile up in and around the Mother City. The municipality had to use its staff to remove rubbish in areas where contractors had been hired to do the job.

The mayor confirmed that he had heard the rumours that administrators, including directors, were benefiting financially from the hiring of contractors.

“I have heard this rumour, of course, but I have received no specific complaint or any evidence. If any is forthcoming it will certainly be investigated,” he said in response to questions from Daily Maverick. DM

Gallery

Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Charles Butcher says:

    Volunteers need to pick up and dump the rubbish in the workers residential areas.

  • Jane Crankshaw says:

    Driven by “certain political parties”. As in KZN. This is not about wages …it is about political interference and manipulation!

  • Jane Crankshaw says:

    Remember when the Waste Management tender in the Cape was awarded to the candidate with the best credentials before BEE policies were enforced and changed the game? This is the result.

  • Richard Blake says:

    This problem has been going on for more than three years. The CCT has dropped the ball on this one.

  • Francois Smith says:

    How about the residents contribute a bit by reducing the waste by buying more clever and using shopping bags more than once. Then, in my hometown, we also go sometimes for weeks without the waste being picked up. DM, will you please come and do an investigation in Secunda where on Friday there is never fuel for the trucks, but on Saturday the fuel and the overtime payments arrive. The DA councilor has been asked to provide feedback on this, but until today, she has not.

  • Rod Gush says:

    Waste collection challenges are ongoing – it seems mainly in the township areas. Why can the COCT not resolve these problems once and for all? It seems there is a lack of will on the part of COCT to get to grips with the pro problem/s.

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