Home News Health and safety concerns: Municipal dumping site a mess

Health and safety concerns: Municipal dumping site a mess

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Health and safety concerns have been raised about the deteriorating state of the municipal dumping site in Kimberley.

Dumped garbage has started to stretch towards the entrance gate. Picture: Soraya Crowie

FOR SEVERAL weeks now, the municipal dumping site in Kimberley has been a cause for concern due to its deteriorating state.

Residents and municipal workers alike have raised concerns about the accumulation of dumped garbage that has reached alarming levels, extending towards the entrance gate, adjacent to the security room.

The site, which is currently operating without a security guard, has become a hot-spot for “scavengers”, predominantly illegal Basotho nationals. The absence of security has allowed these individuals to assert dominance over the site, creating an intimidating environment for users and municipal workers alike.

The site is devoid of a functioning front-end loader, with the only one available being a faulty municipal vehicle that has been out of commission for years. It has been reported that the municipality had been renting a loader from a private service provider, but this service has inexplicably ceased.

Every morning, a municipal loading truck apparently arrives and remains parked on the site, unused throughout the day. This has added to the growing frustration among residents who make use of the dump and municipal workers.

A regular driver who offloads garbage at the site expressed fear for his personal safety. He described how scavengers eagerly await incoming vehicles, dictating where the garbage should be offloaded. He lamented the lack of control they have in these situations, especially when directed to dump at specific locations.

The driver revealed that he had attempted to lodge a complaint with the Sol Plaatje Municipality, but his calls went unanswered.

“I also contacted the DA ward councillor, but it was clear that he does not have control over the situation at the dumping site,” said the driver.

“Our conversation did not end well because I ended up expressing my dissatisfaction as to why the DA doesn’t have any influence over the poor maintenance at the municipality while it is the biggest opposition party.’

The few municipal workers present on the site also voiced their fears. They feel powerless to control the situation, citing a lack of security, inadequate medical aid, and years of underpayment. Despite the risks, they feel they have no choice but to continue working under these conditions.

These workers, classified as EPWP workers, have been awaiting permanent employment for nearly a decade.

“We can’t risk our lives by taking on dangerous people like those scavengers. Some of us have been working here for about 10 years, with the hope and promises that we will be permanently employed, but we are given the run-around. Instead of implementing its promises, the employer rather informed us that we are regarded as EPWP, while we are the ones who do most of the work,” the workers said.

One worker, who has been at the site for years, shared his concerns about the health risks associated with their working conditions.

“We are already in ill-health due to the working conditions and we are perishing one after another. I have been working here for years. I, along with others, have developed a chronic illness as we don’t even get allocated personal protective equipment (PPE) regularly,” he said.

The workers also expressed their fear of physical harm, as they often have to intervene in violent situations among the scavengers. They are forced to bear witness when cases are opened, despite the lack of security.

“We can get stabbed here, there is no security for us.”

The situation at the site is not only unhealthy but also dangerous. The scavengers, described as “rough and forceful”, show little consideration for others, taking what does not belong to them. Their numbers have also started to include their wives, further escalating the situation.

Another worker claimed that they are dismissed from work as soon as they fall critically ill.

“We don’t have medical aid and have to utilise clinics. When the illness kicks in and the asthma and the TB intensifies we are relieved from work, without any form of decent compensation, to go and die a sad death at home. That is exactly how many of our colleagues have died – a sad death at home.

“We can’t even afford decent private health care, and have to use the clinic for treatment. Imagine now if I get attacked at work?

The workers are unable to afford private health care and are left with no choice but to use the clinic for treatment. The fear of being attacked at work adds to their worries.

“We are working at our own risk here and we don’t have a choice because we have families to provide for with the little that we earn. We only earn R200 per day. Imagine … for a man of my age.

“Instead of fulfilling the promise of permanent employment, our wages were increased from R100 to R200 per day.”

A group of about 20 residents from Platfontein, consisting of minors, unemployed youth and parents, shared that they had no choice but to confront their fears daily to earn a living at the dumps.

One of the minors, whose parents are unemployed, has been recycling plastic bottles for years, earning R2 per kilogram.

“We come here to start sorting at 8am until 5pm. At least I go home with about R30 per day, and R50 on a lucky day,” said the boy.

A mother of three attributed her work at the dumps to the high unemployment rate in Platfontein. She explained that they do not receive equal employment opportunities in their township. “There is usually an agent who comes to collect people to work on the farms, but the people who do the recommendations only select their friends and family members,” she said.

“If it wasn’t for the dumping site, my children would go to school hungry,” she added.

The Sol Plaatje Municipality stated on Thursday that operations at the local landfill have resumed following the hiring of the necessary machinery.

Municipal spokesperson Thabo Mothibi refuted claims regarding the absence of security and an idle dump truck at the site.

Mothibi stated that the municipality has prioritised the operation of the excavator.

“As a way to alleviate the unfortunate breakdown of the municipal excavator, the cleansing department has hired machinery on a month-to-month basis to allow for efficient and continuous running of the landfill site and to avoid garbage stretching to the gate,” Mothibi explained.

He confirmed that the workers currently stationed at the dumping site are employed under an EPWP contract. However, he added, “A submission has been made to have them temporarily absorbed under municipal contracts as the institution is currently also battling serious budgetary constraints.”

He said the landfill site is monitored by seven access controllers working in shifts.

“Work has continuously been carried out. We just had an unfortunate incident of the hired bulldozer having to go in for scheduled maintenance and as a result, the workload was negatively impacted for a short while. “

He concluded by dismissing allegations of an idle loading truck at the site. “There is no loading truck parked idly as claimed. All hired machinery is utilised,” Mothibi asserted.

The faulty municipal front-end loader. Picture: Soraya Crowie
Garbage pickers at the dump site. Pictures: Soraya Crowie

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