root - August 15, 2023

Rubbish has been piling up in Dunoon for more than a month

  • Since the last waste collection contract ended on 30 June, no rubbish has been collected in parts of Dunoon and Witsand in Atlantis.
  • Waste has been piling up, including near standpipes that are the only water sources for hundreds of families. 
  • Instead of putting their feet up on Women’s Day, about 20 women spent the day clearing a pile of rubbish that was threatening people’s health

Peter Luhanga 

Instead of cooking umngqusho as she would have liked to do to celebrate Women’s Day, Nosipho Dyonase, 44, chose to spend 9 August with a group of about 20 women clearing garbage that had been piling up behind the communal toilets near the Dunoon library for the past month. 

At the communal toilets are two standpipes supplying water to hundreds of families in Ekuphumuleni and Bekela informal settlements. Dyonase said she and her fellow helpers were concerned about health risks caused by the rotting refuse. 

The waste has been piling up since a contract between a waste collection contractor and the City of Cape Town expired on 30 June. In the meantime, the situation has snowballed, prompting the women to borrow brooms, rakes, and shovels from the City’s storage facility at the municipal hall to clean and revitalise their environment in the absence of municipal services.

On Women’s Day the women shoved the refuse into municipal wheelie bins, making several trips to get rid of the rubbish near the community’s water source.

“We thought we could make traditional meals such us umngqusho to celebrate Women’s Day but were not able to because it is too filthy outside so we resorted to cleaning our environment,” said Dyonase, who lives in Bekela informal settlement in a three-room shack with her husband and one child.    

Ekuphumuleni informal settlement resident Nomathemba Makhoba, 52, said the uncollected waste was spilling over to their homes and decided to get together and clean it on Women’s Day.

Makhoba braais offal for a living. She says customers were not buying from her stand because the stench from the accumulating waste.

She said they started cleaning at 11am on Wednesday and by 2pm were still not finished. 

“We’re celebrating Women Day by making sure that our environment is clean,” said Makhoba.

“There are sanitary pads, faeces, dog carcasses. We are wearing masks but the smell is still so bad,” she said.

Women’s Day celebrates a 1956 mass march by women to the Union Buildings in Pretoria in protest against apartheid pass laws, but Makhoba said little has changed since then.

“Nothing has changed. We get assaulted. We get killed and even now we’re cleaning our own environments,” she said.

The women involved in the cleanup were supported by a group of about 40 men.

Ekuphumuleni resident Sigqibo Pini, 32, was one of the men who supported the Women’s Day cleanup.

Pini said he was woken by a woman yelling at another resident to stop dumping more rubbish on the mountain of waste.

Pini said when he came out of his shack he saw no men assisting the women cleaning but when he started helping,  more men joined him.

“It is a good thing we helped them cleaning on Women’s Day. They carried us for nine months we need to support them,” he said.  

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