Residents mobilise to tackle trash themselves

2011-04-16 17:24

Over the past two weeks the SA Municipal Workers’ Union strike has trashed Joburg.

In low-lying Bertrams, overflowing rubbish blocks stormwater drains, turning roads into deep rivers.

Queen Street was a royal mess after the rains on Friday – until a small team of residents took matters into their own hands.

Pammy Xhentsi and Jeannette Masemola created an instant community work project which gave “piece jobs” to a dozen youth volunteers and involved the community in uplifting their environment.

Pammy, who works for the Seriti Company – which creates short-term casual employment for Bertrams residents – said that she and Jeannette organised the work team and started pulling rubbish out of the drains during a short lull in the downpour yesterday afternoon.

As we watched, the huge pool of water flowed into the cleared drains once again.

“People don’t want to volunteer, so the company pays us R60 to work,” says Xhentsi.

“In the beginning we were few, but now we are more than 300.”

In addition to the fallout from the strike, grass has not been mowed, weeds choke the pavements and there is a general air of neglect and decay in Bertrams and its surrounds.

It becomes increasingly clear that the solution to the problem of urban decay lies in residents’ hands.A broom and rake seller walks past the women with his wares.

Pammy calls out to him: “Give me a rake – this one is broken. I don’t have money now but you’ll come get your R30 tomorrow.”

The ubuntu is contagious as the salesman hands over the tool with a smile.

In this working-class community – interspersed with warehouses and light industry, with many unskilled and unemployed people – Masemola and Xhentsi are taking the lead in creating the kind of society we want to live in.

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