Faith Daniels

Deliver us from Pikitup...

2016-03-30 10:11

Faith Daniels

The strike by thousands of Pikitup workers would be funny if it wasn't so stinky. Funny because sometimes a situation has become so ridiculous that you do the unthinkable – laugh. Not haha. But you get where I'm going with this.

Johannesburg residents have for weeks been puzzled and frustrated as we  try to figure out why our neighbourhoods are becoming one major stinkhole. Joburgers being Joburgers, we simply made other arrangements or waited for trucks to make their rounds at odd hours of the day.
Meanwhile the explanations changed and the blame game shifted.

First it seemed the Pikitup MD was at the heart of the stoppages organised by workers affiliated to the SA Municipal Workers Union (Samwu). Claims of theft and fraud were made last year but formal proceedings cleared the Pikitup boss of any wrongdoing.

Still, all was not well. The stop-start approach to waste collection continued, with claims that workers were being victimised by management. Then the salary issue was raised.

As the latest stoppage dragged into its fourth week, temporary workers and volunteers stepped in. But a few days ago they came under attack in Alexandra. Later the City of Joburg said nine of its trucks were attacked while trying to move through the streets and clear the rubbish that has become an eyesore on many a corner.

Now scores of workers face disciplinary action for a strike described as illegal by City officials. Johannesburg Mayor Parks Tau finally took to a press conference on Tuesday to address the issue and I thought we might be nearing the end of this saga.

But, alas, there was nothing to reassure Joburg residents that authorities were taking charge. All we know is that more talks are planned and that everyone is appalled at the situation. Great.

Meanwhile the EFF's Johannesburg region on Tuesday threw its weight behind workers and called on residents to withhold payment for municipal services – a move that may score the EFF some political points but is unlikely to calm tensions among stakeholders.  

The truth is that Pikitup has been causing a stink for some time.
In June 2013 Corruption Watch highlighted the troubles at the city's waste management company – citing dodgy contracts and wasteful expenditure.
Fast forward to today and its troubles continue to pile up, with no one seemingly taking responsibility for the status quo.

Mayor Parks Tau is far too seasoned a politician not to have seen the current mess coming. As a result of his administration's inaction, we now sit with a colossal PR and HR disaster all in one. A prime example of how not to manage a crisis.

From Pikitup to the City and Samwu... take your pick as to who's to blame. One thing's for sure – the customer never came first in all this. In a local government election year, you'd think all the stops would be pulled out to satisfy ratepayers and potential voters. But months down the line we are still in the negotiating phase.

Isn't such a routine yet critical aspect of service delivery worth getting your act together? Or is the garbage filling our streets a sign of things to come?

- Faith Daniels is a seasoned radio and TV journalist, and is currently head of news at Kagiso Media’s Jacaranda FM and East Coast Radio.

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.

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