Whittlesea Spar has been fined R10 000 by the Enoch Mgijima Local Municipality (EMLM) for illegally dumping expired food in the open veld that allegedly led to some children in the area being hospitalised after consuming it.
This was communicated by the local authority on Wednesday during a meeting with the Hewu Civic Organisation that brought the matter to the attention of The Rep.
The organisation organiser, Anathi Matoti, said retail store Spar was found dumping expired food near a residential area last week, and had to remove it after members of the organisation told him of the health hazard caused by the act.
Matoti said residents were unhappy about the “continuous” dumping of expired food and wrote a letter to the store expressing their concerns.
“We then met with the store manager who apologised and offered to provide food parcels for the Izinyoka area in Dongwe where the food was dumped. We also reported the matter to the municipality who met with people from Spar to discuss the issue. Following that meeting, the Spar store manager we have been in contact with told us that the area ward councillor, Papama Madubedube, told him not to provide food to the people.”
Matoti said he could not understand why a councillor who was meant to represent the people would stand in the way of a poor community receiving much-needed food items as compensation for what was done by a local business.
“In our meeting with the municipality on Tuesday we were told the store was fined R10 000 for the illegal dumping and we hope this serves as a warning for other businesses not to dump items that could harm the community.”
Whittlesea Spar store manager Bradley Pillay confirmed being fined and indicated they would pay the money in installments over three months.
“I apologise to Dongwe residents for dumping the food in their area. However, we did so under the impression that it was an actual dumping site because there were other dumped items there. We were trying to get rid of expired food and asked one of our staff members for a place we could safely dump the food and he directed us to the place.
“It is a secluded place, far away from the people, so we did not see a problem with it because there were already dumped items. We did not realise that residents from the nearby residential area would go as far as that place. Also, it is not true that we had dumped food there before, it was our first time.”
Pillay said after meeting with the municipality and the ward councillor he was told there had not been any reports of sick people due to the food and there was no need to provide food parcels.
EMLM spokesperson Lonwabo Kowa said the municipality was aware of allegations of illegal dumping of expired food by Whittlesea Spar which had been witnessed by community members.
“We met with the alleged perpetrators and community stakeholders on Monday to discuss the matter. Members of the community who consumed the expired food are encouraged to come forward and any health issues that emanate from consumption of the food items will be the sole responsibility of the perpetrator.”
Kowa indicated they were aware of the “unsubstantiated allegations” against councillor Madubedube which led to him opening a case of defamation of character against one of the community members.
“The allegations of the involvement of Madubedube have thus far proven baseless. However, businesses must be sure to only use designated dumping sites to protect the community and the environment.”
Asked whether the municipality had fined Spar R10 000 for the illegal dumping, Kowa said: “A fitting resolution was reached.”