Maverick Citizen


The plight of Hout Bay’s Imizamo Yethu residents to tackle an illegal and hazardous rubbish dump site

The plight of Hout Bay’s Imizamo Yethu residents to tackle an illegal and hazardous rubbish dump site
Imizamo Yethu residents struggle with large amounts of waste and dumping. Residents say that the dirt hasn’t been collected in certain spots in years. Many residents use a bucket as a toilet and dump it along with their rubbish. Hout Bay, 22 May 2024. (Photo: Shelley Christians)

Over several years, an informal, illegal rubbish dump has overwhelmed the green belt that runs between the township of Imizamo Yethu and Penzance Estate in Hout Bay, Cape Town.

The accumulation of rubbish in a green belt that runs between the township of Imizamo Yethu and the suburb of Penzance Estate in Hout Bay Valley, Cape Town is affecting the health and dignity of residents. 

Large piles of illegally dumped plastics, decaying food scraps and human waste are strewn on the paths in the area. For those living on the border of Imizamo Yethu, the thick layer of garbage lies right outside the walls of their homes. 

Residents of the township told Daily Maverick that the cause of the problem was twofold — the lack of a suitable waste management system and the shortage of ablution facilities for people living in the area.

Liliswa Madubela, a mother of two young children who lives close to the informal dump, said the situation was particularly dangerous for local kids.

“There are kids whose moms can’t afford to pay for crèches for them, so each and every day they’re coming to pick up bottles and rubbish to play with. We don’t have toilets, so lots of people are using buckets to do their number two and then they come to throw it here. Everything is here,” she said.

Madubela used to run a daycare from her home but was forced to close it when children started getting sick because of the increasingly unhygienic environment. The rubbish also attracts rats, which enter people’s homes.  

“There’s another child who lives nearby; a rat coming from this side bit her. She’s only one year old,” Madubela said.

“Most of the people who are staying here are very sick. There’s lots of illness … As I’m staying here, I’m always getting sick.”

She said members of the community were willing to clear some of the waste but struggled to do so without gloves, masks and garbage bags.

Some community members had created drains and installed toilets, said Wonga Mzikayise Lucas, a resident of Imizamo Yethu. However, these facilities were rare and many locals resorted to using buckets which they empty on the green belt.

“When we speak about kids needing to go to school … they have to walk along this pathway [on the green belt]. And if you walk along the pathway … you’ll see that it’s littered with human faeces … That is another big issue where human dignity is not at all considered,” Lucas said.

The homes along the border of the waste piles are tightly packed together. While some are built on stilts, others are on ground level. The area is prone to flooding, particularly in winter, which causes filthy water carrying rubbish and sewage to stream into people’s homes.

One of the homes that floods frequently is that of Patrick Bokhwana, an elderly man who struggles with chest problems. “It’s not right,” he said when asked about the waste problem. He said he would like to see more bins and toilets for the community to use.

Clean washing hangs in the middle of an area littered with garbage. Imizamo Yethu residents struggle with large amounts of waste and dumping in Hout Bay, 22 May 2024. (Photo: Shelley Christians)

Patrick Bokhwana’s home gets flooded every year with water. Hout Bay, 22 May 2024. (Photo: Shelley Christians)

Imizamo Yethu residents struggle with large amounts of waste and dumping, Hout Bay, 22 May 2024. (Photo: Shelley Christians)

Thembela Mtshi has been living in Imizamo Yethu for six years. (Photo: Shelley Christians)

Years in the making

The informal dump in the green belt has been building up over many years. When Daily Maverick visited the site on Wednesday morning, a crew of city-contracted workers was picking up rubbish in the area. However, they left before midday. 

Lucas helps with the running of a small duck and chicken coop on the border of the green belt. He said it was the first time he’d seen workers from the city at the site in many years. 

“Because of the sheer amount of rubbish that comes straight back here, the city put up these three cages [for waste]. Then they get full, but no one is ever coming here to fetch it,” he said.

⁠Jonny Cohen, a businessman and manager of the Sisonke Boxing Club in Imizamo Yethu, Hout Bay, 22 May 2024. (Photo: Shelley Christians)

The current waste management system in Imizamo Yethu consists of shipping containers where rubbish is dropped off by residents and collected by city contractors, according to Jonny Cohen, manager of the Sisonke Boxing Club in Imizamo Yethu. 

Cohen is the founder of a nonprofit organisation, Pathfinder Ubuntu, that raised funds to install a borehole on the green belt to improve access to water for the township.

He told Daily Maverick that there was a need for the City of Cape Town to institute a better strategy for addressing the waste problem. In February, he held a meeting with key officials from the city, including Mayoral Committee Member for Human Settlements Carl Pophaim and local ward councillor Roberto Quintas, to discuss the way forward.

“In that meeting, councillor Pophaim committed to putting in toilets. The officials committed to cleaning [the area] up … It’s been almost four months and nothing’s happened. I follow up every few weeks. I understand that things move slowly and this is not the only place that needs attention, but there’s been no progress whatsoever,” Cohen said.

“I think … in some ways this is symptomatic of other social issues. It’s frustrating when I see pictures of [DA leader] John Steenhuisen saying ‘Rescue South Africa’, but I don’t know if that applies to everyone.”

Lucas echoed Cohen’s frustration, saying that it was particularly difficult to see the local government sidelining the waste and sanitation problem around election time.

“People are too busy waving flags, saying ‘vote for this person and this person’, when we need to be just here [in the community],” he said. “Every voting season it’s a matter of ‘The city works for you’ or ‘Vote ANC’. For me, I just shut up and do things myself.

“I’m not a DA member but I’m also not a DA hater. We’ve got to work together with regard to all these situations and the biggest issue that I see is people doing things and not involving other parties and members of the bigger community.”

Liliswa Madubela opens her shack. Imizamo Yethu residents say that the dirt hasn’t been collected in certain spots in years. Hout Bay, 22 May 2024. (Photo: Shelley Christians)

Debra Dnboqwana does her washing in Imizamo Yethu, 22 May 2024. (Photo: Shelley Christians)

Wonga Mzikayise Lucas with the first duck he bought, a male called Mzi, in Imizamo Yethu, 22 May 2024. (Photo: Shelley Christians)

City efforts

Daily Maverick asked Quintas about the concerns raised by residents of Imizamo Yethu. He responded that the green belt area was a protected riverine gully which was inaccessible to vehicles, making it difficult for teams to remove the “illegally dumped waste” by any other means than on foot, manually picking it up. 

“The residents throw effluent and a host of biohazard materials, which makes hand cleaning particularly difficult,” he said. 

“The city cleans when resources allow for manual, labour-intensive cleansing. However, the community continues to dump on that site as opposed to walking a few metres to Aggett [Avenue] where they could leave their waste for the daily collections that take place off formal roads in Imizamo Yethu.

“The quickest way for residents to improve their lives is to take their waste to the road mentioned as opposed to dumping it behind their homes in an inaccessible area.”

When asked about Cohen’s claim that the city had agreed to clean the area and install toilets for the neighbouring block of homes after the meeting in February, Quintas said officials had agreed to a pilot initiative to establish the efficacy of using Expanded Public Works Programme workers to manually carry waste from the site down to the depot.

“This programme requires planning and budgeting as the cost will be on the tax and rates payers and, unfortunately, the city is not able to immediately move funds to enterprises and initiatives that occur in the middle of the financial year,” Quintas said. 

“Our solid waste officials as well as environmental health officials have regular educational drives in the community regarding responsible waste disposal as well as the consequences of illegal and irresponsible dumping, which affects communities and their health and which occurs prevalently here.”

The City responds

The City of Cape Town told Daily Maverick that it was aware of the situation in the green belt, adding that the level of dumping in the area was “too intensive” for contracted cleansing staff from the standard informal settlements cleansing programme to keep pace with while still cleaning the rest of the settlement. 

“The City is making a special arrangement for a one-off manual clean-up of the site using a big team of workers. This should occur before the end of the financial year (1 July 2024),” it said.

“After this, the community will need to ensure that they make use of the services provided to dispose of their waste. Each household is issued with high-quality refuse bags for containing waste, and full bags are collected door-to-door.” DM

This article was updated at 10.30am on 28 May 2024 to include a response from the City of Cape Town.


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Denise Smit says:

    So Cohen want the city to clean the area where people are just dumping everything. Sorry but some responsibility must be laid on the door of the people who live there. Anti DA publication again by DM one can not help but suspect. What happens in the Eastern Cape, North West, Natal areas run by ANC.

    • Shaun Pastor says:

      Coming from a town just outside PE, when the cANCer took over from the DA all the town cleaners were let go as it costs too much to keep the town clean, even the workers that pick up home refuse were let go. Every time the rubbish collector truck works it first has to stop at the garage to pick up unemployed casuals that get R100 for the day. The town itself, all shops have to keep the pavements and gutters clean as all that plastic going into the drains only gets cleaned out by casual labor when the drain overflows onto the street, and it rains often there, so you can imagine.

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted


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