Refuse collection is finally under way in Pretoria after waste removal workers, employed on a contract basis by the Tshwane Metro Council went on a two-week-long strike. The workers were demanding overtime payments for September, which the council paid to them last Friday.
Although the strike is over, rubbish is still overflowing in certain parts of the city including at two garden refuse sites in Rooihuiskraal and Dorandia. The council's Dikeledi Phiri says a 'damage control' schedule has been devised to fix the problem as soon as possible. It is unclear if Pretoria residents will be billed for services not rendered over the two-week period.
Just in time, too. If it had gone on for another week I'd have been collecting old tyres to burn in Soutpansberg Road, which seems to be the standard method of complaining about poor service delivery nowadays.
This episode illustrates some of the problems of the Thatcherist mania for privatisation, which is still with is nearly 20 years after Margaret Thatcher resigned.
Rubbish removal is one of the core services of the monicipality. It is not something that should be contracted out to others, and the ANC-controlled Tshwane City Council should know better.
Rubbish removal should be done by by municipal workers using municipally-owned vehicles. If the municipality contracts it out, then they are simply abdicating their responsibility. If they really think that it should be done by private enterprise, then let each household make its own contract with a rubbish-removal service provider of its choice, and let us live with the consequences (cheap fly-by-night operators dumping it at the roadside when no one is looking). And then let the municipal rates be reduced accordingly.
Why is it better that this service should be done by the municipality, at least in larger towns (when we lived in Melmoth, in Zululand, population about 2000, the rubbish was put in plastic bags and collected by a tractor pulling a trailer)? In the big towns we have wheelie bins, which need specially equipped compactor lorries to collect. If a private firm were to tender for this, for say three years, they would have to have a lot of capital to equip themselves to begin with. And if their tender was not renewed, they would stand to lose a lot of capital, unless they sold it to the next operator. And, what is more, the workers for the firm that lost the tender bid would also stand to lose their jobs, and probably end up having to resort to crime for a living. To make such a system work more smoothly, it would need a lot more lubrication than a fully-owned municipal undertaking. The lubrication would probably take the form of greasing the palms of municipal officials and such things.
It would be better for the municipality to trun the operation, with a stable work force who had at least a modicum of job security, a pension and a medical aid, which contract workers don't get. And then we wonder why we have such a high crime rate.