Backlash over clean-up drive

LEADING FROM THE FRONT: CHDM mayor Wongama Gela led the Komani clean-up campaign on Monday and was spotted filling refuse bags with Newvale resident Philasande Goya                                 Picture: ANDISA BONANI

Recently elected ANC ward 11 councillor Andile Gangca told residents to “f**k off” when they confronted the mayors of Enoch Mgijima and Chris Hani municipalities about the filth in Komani during a community meeting ahead of a clean-up campaign at the Indoor Sport Centre on Monday.

Residents gathered at the sport centre where they were allowed to put service delivery-related questions to Enoch Mgijima Local Municipality (EMLM) mayor Luleka Gubula and Chris Hani mayor Wongama Gela.

The residents passionately wanted to know why pupils and residents were suddenly called to assist in the campaign which residents said  was organised after premier Oscar Mabuyane recently instructed them to do so.

A furious Gangca stood between the mayors and residents during the heated discussion, pushing journalists aside, and told the residents to “f**k off” and “voetsek”, or instead ask him what they wanted to know.

The South African National Civic Organisation (Sanco) Mlungisi cluster member Fuzeka Hoho asked why pupils would be made to pick up rubbish covered in dried-up sewage, when there were municipal staff employed to do the work.

“Our children were taken out of school during a pandemic that already limits their time in class to come pick and up litter covered in faeces that runs in  the streets of Mlungisi on a daily basis. The school governing bodies have failed the parents for allowing children to do the work of municipal employees who are paid, but are lazy. Let the children go back to school and not be part of this programme. Rubbish has not been picked up in our areas for a while and today we are called to come and clean up ourselves.”

Hoho said the pothole-ridden streets, sewage spillages at every turn, and the rubbish that blocked sewage pipes were not reported or even addressed by the portfolio head for community services, Zukiswa Ralane, who she said lived on the same street as she did.

“Ralane needs to stop hiding behind the mayor’s responses. She must address us herself because that is what she is paid for.

“You will see several illegal dumping areas in Mlungisi because residents do not know how else to dispose of the rubbish after months of it not being collected. We were shocked to learn of a municipal refuse collection truck that caught fire in Mlungisi on Saturday evening because it was not there to service the area.”

Sanco Mlungisi cluster convener Mnqophiso Naye said he lived in a newly established area in Mlungisi that did not have water, and that he had not once seen a water carting truck servicing there.

“We are struggling with basic services and yet receive municipal accounts monthly for services we do not get.

“We have a leaking sewage pipe that needs to be fixed every day, we have reported this several times and it is fixed, but the next day it bursts again. We have nothing positive to point out which has been done by the district and local municipality in the past five years. Philani Clinic had to close because there was no water, thus inconveniencing people who get treatment there and now have to travel long distances to access a health facility.”

Ezitya amaKomani member Mabhuti Mapeyi highlighted the neglected recreational facilities in Komani that he said were in a shambles and were not maintained, but left vandalised to become havens for drugs.

Responding to residents, Gubula said they already had a clean-up campaign planned prior to the visit by Mabuyane to the district municipality earlier this month.

“The campaign was going to happen before the premier visited the district because it is our responsibility to clean our environment. We admit we have not been diligent and consistent in doing so, but we have had several clean-up campaigns before, with the latest being the clean-up along Pelem Road and the Komani River.

“We are going to clean other areas of Enoch Mgijima as well, but we thought to start with Mlungisi and then Ezibeleni because they are the dirtiest. We will share with the media a clear plan of how we will go about cleaning all our areas so that the public is aware of this.”

Resident communist party member Bandile Ndabambi said community activist Sean Russell was doing a better job in cleaning than the municipality who paid people to do nothing.

CHDM mayor Gela commended Russell for the work he did for the community, also stating that a group of white residents in Top Town dumped plastic bags of rubbish in his home unprovoked.

“I live with my family there and what those residents did was uncalled for. I understand their frustration, but I also live with a child there and what they did is wrong. Instead of complaining or letting people know what happened, I cleaned my yard and removed rubbish bags in the whole street. When residents do good work for the community they should not disturb others’ peace in the safety of their homes,” said the mayor.

Asked about the conduct of ANC members who are public representatives in relation to the Gangca incident, ANC Chris Hani regional secretary Lusanda Sizani declined to comment.

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