Another blaze erupted in the bush outside the New England Road landfill site on Tuesday afternoon just as the firefighters were packing up after extinguishing the week-long dump fire.
The fire burned across the Duzi on the Sobantu side and City spokesperson Thobeka Mafumbatha alleged that it was started by the waste pickers. Sobantu residents were not pleased about again being subjected to smoke.
“When I saw the smoke I thought it was the dump burning again but after a while I realised it was just the bush. I’m not happy that we have another fire but I’m glad it’s not the dump, my lungs need a break,” said Bonga Madlala.
Another resident said she was annoyed because she had finally managed to do her laundry and it was not yet dry when the fire started.
Things have been tense between the dump management and waste pickers, who have been suspected of starting the previous fires. A scuffle broke out last week and shots were fired by the management team resulting in two waste pickers being injured. The management and the security were trying to forcefully remove the waste pickers from the dump as they had refused to leave after numerous attempts.
On Tuesday Nonhlanhla Mhlophe, a waste picker at the landfill site and co-ordinator of the South African Waste Pickers’ Association (Sawpa), said as far as she knew there were no waste pickers on the site because they were removed on Monday.
“We were told to stay away from the dump until the fire had been completely extinguished so we did because we didn’t want any trouble.
“We’ve said it over and over again that we would never start any fires because for us waste is money,” she said.
Mafumbatha said the dump fire had been completely extinguished and the landfill team was busy compacting and covering the waste to ensure that the risk of fire is minimised.
She confirmed that waste pickers were currently not allowed on the site but Msunduzi was working on implementing a waste minimisation plan to sort recyclable waste.
“The municipality, through its security arm, finally managed to remove waste pickers from the site. This is no guarantee that they will not return in the coming days.
“This was necessary as they were exposed to life-threatening risks from smoke inhalation and possible injury from heavy equipment being operated at the site,” said Mafumbatha.
She said the City was still complying with the waste management regulations and the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs made sure of that.
On the lifespan of the landfill site, Mafumbatha said it still had about a decade left. “Msunduzi is looking into the idea of establishing a new landfill site which may not be something to happen soon as it requires a great deal of funds and resources. The biggest goal at the moment is waste minimisation and diversion.”
She said the public would be informed once the landfill site resumed normal operations.