‘Declare dump a disaster’

Working on Fire firefighters help fight the fire at the landfill site yesterday. PHOTO: WORKING ON FIRE
Working on Fire firefighters help fight the fire at the landfill site yesterday. PHOTO: WORKING ON FIRE

The joint operations committee’s (JOC) recommendation for Msunduzi to declare its burning dump a local disaster has been mooted at the City Hall.

If council approves this, it would help the City attract more resources from other spheres of government to get the facility back on track.

However, municipal manager Madoda Khathide on Thursday told the executive committee that while there were still a lot of challenges, he did not believe that the situation had reached a point where it should be declared a disaster. “It’s just a matter of ensuring that we tighten our security there.

“Unfortunately we are not a law enforcement institution. We rely on the SAPS and SANDF.”

He said the soldiers were asked to help Msunduzi with security issues at the dump but the City was told that “they are here for Covid and not for other things”.

Khathide said the environmental consulting company Surg Sut had been doing very well in the implementation of the turnaround strategy to get the site back on track, but securing the facility has been a challenge.

“The challenge that we still have is the informal settlement’s individuals that are still not able to comply with what is in place. They still crack our security walls to access the property.”

Khathide said there was also a problem of waste pickers not wanting to comply with Covid-19 regulations.

He said things got worse when the fire started on Monday night. He said there was an investigation underway but it would be difficult to find out who was responsible. Khathide said the JOC recommended that Msunduzi call in other law enforcement agencies because the situation at the landfill site was not only criminal but was also a security threat to the country.

He mentioned recent criminal activities at the dump such as the stabbing of Blessing Nwosu (38) who was killed in front of his wife and their car stolen.

“The guy that is managing the site had his life threatened yesterday and shots were fired,” he said referring to the scuffle between waste pickers, security guards and Surg Sut boss Max Lekgatle, which resulted in the shooting of two waste pickers on Wednesday.

Khathide said the analysis by the community services department indicated that they were not just dealing with the normal waste pickers.

He said these were individuals “who are greedy from the side of the business sector, who want to manipulate and abuse the landfill site” to suit their personal financial interests by abusing the waste pickers.

He said this group also wanted to prevent Msunduzi from laying the covering sand on top of the waste because that would prevent them from getting the materials they wanted.

Khathide also said there are a number of illegal immigrants among the waste pickers “who are very dangerous and we suspect that they don’t have legal permits”.

Administrator Scelo Duma agreed with Khathide, saying he visited the site on Thursday morning and he witnessed waste pickers moving freely around the site through holes made in the fence.

“The numbers are quite high. You would need a lot of security if you were to be able to control the situation.”

Duma said the fire was contained so there were no huge flames but it was still burning under the surface.

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