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City of Ekurhuleni mayor Tania Campbell. Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA.
City of Ekurhuleni mayor Tania Campbell. Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA.

The DA-led multiparty coalition running the City of Ekurhuleni has blamed the shortage of garbage trucks for the heaps of rubbish left uncollected for days in the suburbs and townships.

The metro tabled a budget of R51.2bn in May for the 2022/2023 financial year, with finance member of the mayoral committee (MMC) Fana Nkosi saying more than half of the annual operating budget of about R600m would go to refuse removal efforts.

Two months before the budget was tabled, DA executive mayor Tania Campbell said in her state of the city address that one of the priorities was to ensure there is a “hygienic environment to live and play, delivered through effective waste collection and waste disposal, working landfill sites, the implementation of recycling programmes through reclaiming of untidy public parks and cemeteries”.

The affected suburbs where rubbish — which poses a threat to residents’ health and wellbeing — has not been collected since last week include Clayville in Olifantsfontein.

The public protector was scathing about Ekurhuleni’s conduct in 2021, saying the city contravened the constitution after failing to collect refuse for three weeks in Kempton Park.

Among other recommendations, the public protector called on the city to ensure any outsourced services are properly monitored and managed, and that waste removal trucks and other equipment are properly maintained and serviced as required.

Ekurhuleni, together with the metros of Johannesburg and Tshwane fell under DA-led multiparty coalition after the local government elections in 2021, when the ANC support fell below the 50% mark for the first time since 1994. The three DA executive mayors promised better service delivery when they took over in 2021.

Campbell said at the time she said she would be “quite demanding” on staff to do the jobs that they are paid to do, adding gone are the days when it took 10 days to replace a bulb on a street light.

“We want proper turnaround times and not nine days to change a normal fuse as is the case now.” She said she would not let Ekurhuleni collapse and that delivery of services would be a non-negotiable. She promised to put the interests of communities first and to implement policies aimed at improving the people’s socioeconomic conditions.

The challenges with refuse collection in Ekurhuleni speak to the broader crises within the local government sector, which is at the coalface of service delivery in the country.

In a statement last week, the metro said Campbell and her mayoral cabinet met senior officials of the city to “resolve the backlog in waste collection throughout the city”.

“The executive mayor has taken a hard line on this issue and will be implementing consequences management for officials who have underperformed in their respective duties.

“The multiparty coalition (MPC) in Ekurhuleni is committed to the efficient and seamless rollout of service delivery. Through our ‘back to basics’ programme, the MPC continues to work tirelessly to ensure that residents live in a well-functioning city.”

ANC councillor Pudi Tshoarelo told Business Day on Monday that the backlog in refuse collection was because the metro “didn’t pay contractors, but this week the schedule is going back to normal on Friday, [a] contractor [has] started working”.

DA councillor Andre du Plessis, who is a member of the mayoral committee (MMC) for environment and waste management services, told Business Day the backlog was caused by a shortage of hydraulic garbage trucks.

“There is a backlog because of a shortage of trucks. 57% of our trucks are in workshops. They have problems with tyres — the tyre tender has not been issued; gearboxes, hydraulics. We are trying to get them out of the workshops,” Du Plessis said. He was not sure how many garbage trucks the metro has.

Du Plessis said every councilor has been issued with a template indicating when the backlog would be cleared in their respective wards.

Another DA councillor Derek Edwin Thomson, when asked when the mess would be sorted, replied: "Busy sorting."

Ekurhuleni metro spokesperson Phakamile Mbengashe did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

In 2018 residents of Kempton Park suburbs threatened to empty their refuse bins at the Ekurhuleni municipal offices following failure by the city to empty their bins for three weeks.

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