Residents’ rat hell

Another one of the areas heavily affected by illegal dumping.

A section of City-owned land in Mandela Park has become a breeding ground for rats and pests, as dumping continues on the site, despite residents’ efforts.

Domestic refuse, old food, broken car parts and even the odd piece of rundown furniture can be found dumped on the site, which is located outside Imizamo Yethu informal settlement.

Resident Tricia Crowster is too embarrassed to invite visitors to her house because of the conditions created by the dumped rubbish.

“My door stands open and that smell just travels inside. There are rats breeding there and it has become a major health  and safety problem for us residents,” she said.

Ms Crowster has done everything to assist, but to no avail.

“I can clean there today or try and clear up the mess, but later that day, it’s back to normal and even worse. It’s like when you clean that area, we are telling these people to dump there again or we are cleaning the area for more things to be dumped,” she said.

“We have reported this problem a few times to the City of Cape Town. Sometimes they clean it and sometimes you see the guys here and they just drive off without cleaning that section.”

Her latest concern is about the fires that are being created by people scavenging through waste for valuables.  

“The guys sit here, they burn tyres and other metals hoping to get something they can sell as scrap. That smoke travels and we all have to sit with the problem. When you approach these culprits, they want to get more angry at you,” Ms Crowster said.

It is also believed that some residents were burning the waste in an attempt to get rid of the rubbish.

Another resident, Jason Edwards, has also reported the matter to the City, but said: “This problem is beyond the City because you cannot clean up a dumping hot spot and then leave it unsecured. It will just return to the same state later on.”

Mr Edwards is also worried that the site is located close to the Imizamo Yethu clinic.

“It’s a health hazard around the clinic. How can people become better health wise when they have to sit around a mess like that?”

The City roughly spends around R120 million for clearing of illegal dumping hot spots around Cape Town every year, according to mayoral committee member for water and waste, Xanthea Limberg.

She said the City conducts a seven day area cleaning service at the Nelson Mandela informal settlement, where four shipping containers are emptied twice a week, on a Tuesday and Thursday.

“Dumping occurs on a daily basis and it is simply not possible for cleansing staff to be in all areas at all times of the day. It is crucial that we work together in the fight against grime, by not littering or dumping, and reporting those who do,” Ms Limberg said.

The City said there are approximately 1 000 large dumping hot spots across the city and despite efforts to curb illegal dumping such as the establishment of drop-off facilities, legislation supporting waste disposal plans, the practice persists.

“This obviously places an enormous burden on the City’s resources, and consequently on its ability to deliver services to residents. Money could be much better spent elsewhere on new services and infrastructure. Law-abiding residents suffer the consequences of decisions made by those who choose not to dispose of their waste in a safe and legal manner,” Ms Limberg said.

Earlier this year, Mayor Dan Plato, accompanied by ward councillor Roberto Quintas and a clean-up team from the City, tackled the area after receiving numerous complaints.

Social media was even used by residents to rally support from the locals, who wrote: “Dear people of Hout Bay. We need your help. As you may have seen on posts in the past few months and days, we have a refuse problem in IY. We have piles of refuse you see lying around where people dump their waste – more or less centrally – for the City to come and collect. Unfortunately, this is not collected regularly and apart from the unbearable smelly conditions people are living in, has become a breeding ground for rats which is what most likely lead to the community taking the drastic measure of burning the rubbish themselves.”

The post had sparked a reaction, some calling for a petition to be drawn up, some calling on more containers or skips to hold the waste and others sharing their thoughts, such as: “This is really disgusting, because there are children staying near this rubbish.”

Mr Quintas confirmed that the City was well aware of the problems being experienced and said the mayor was brought into the area to experience the full scope of the problem.

“There has to be a solution around that site and we are planning to meet to discuss this matter. We will be looking at possible projects around this area to prevent the dumping from happening,” he said, confirming that concerns reported to the City included rats breeding in the waste.

The dumped rubbish can also get into the stormwater system, causing major blockages and waste landing up on the beach.

Mr Quintas said the problem could end up jeopardising the area’s chance of getting a Blue Flag status for its beach. He now plans to sit with various NGOs within Hout Bay to discuss solutions as to how best to make use of these sites, turning them into “positive public spaces” which end up discouraging dumping.

“We need to create general awareness around dumping, starting at school level already. We hope there will be NGO’s or different groups trying to share the same message and assist us in this regard,” Mr Quintas said.

Ms Limberg urged the public to assist, and said: “In order for the situation to change, we need their (residents) help in reporting offenders. The support of Cape Town citizens is crucial to identifying offenders and making sure they are brought to book.”

The public can report any concerns around illegal dumping to the City’s call centre on 0860 103 089.