Pikitup workers. Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA
Pikitup workers. Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA

Johannesburg’s refuse removal entity Pikitup now conducts its services under police watch after protesters have made its job impossible for more than a month.

Pikitup’s workers have been protected by the Johannesburg Metro Police since last week, after debilitating protests.

The protests have, among other things, led to a staff hall and a storage facility being burnt down; a Pikitup waste removal truck being set alight; and a senior official being doused with petrol, but managing to escape before being set alight.

The protests were set in motion when Pikitup began insourcing workers earlier this year after it was announced by mayor Herman Mashaba that some former contract and Jozi@Work employees would be insourced by the city.

Herman Mashaba. Picture: SUPPLIED
Herman Mashaba. Picture: SUPPLIED

Mashaba said then that Pikitup was only able to accommodate 1,400 of the total 3,000 former employees, which consisted of the Jozi@Work staff as well as contract workers, due to budget constraints.

Mashaba has described the protests as being politically motivated. Pikitup spokesperson Muzi Mkhwanazi said on Thursday that the entity’s services were continuing under police watch.

With the noncollection of waste bins, people have started dumping waste illegally, according to Mkhwanazi.

Johannesburg had more service delivery woes in August when the Eikenhof sub-station caught fire, affecting areas in Johannesburg as well Rand Water, leaving parts of the city without water for as long as 48 hours.

The mayor claimed the fire at the sub-station was due to sabotage. Following the outage, combined with the Pikitup protests, Mashaba said "the provision of services for the residents of our city should never become a bargaining chip used politically to destabilise a government ... When this happens, war is waged against the residents of these affected areas who have the right and expectation of regular refuse removal in their communities."

On how the Pikitup protests and the outages due to the Eikenhof fire would affect revenue collection, Johannesburg finance spokesperson Kutlwano Olifant said it was "too early to determine the actual impact on revenue at this stage". She said the city billed a month in arrears and that analysis could only be done at the end of September, and that refuse removal was billed on the basis of property value and not on the number of collections.