Army helps to clean Mthatha’s filthy streets

SANDF members of the Mthatha-based 14 South African Infantry Battalion lead a cleanup of the city.
WASTE WARRIORS SANDF members of the Mthatha-based 14 South African Infantry Battalion lead a cleanup of the city.

 A group of uniformed members of the SANDF’s 14th South African Infantry Battalion in Mthatha traded their rifles and heavy artillery for brooms, spades and rakes on Thursday and spent hours cleaning up some of Mthatha’s inner city filth-riddled streets.

The soldiers declined to offer any comment on their gesture, saying protocol did not allow them to give media interviews.

But King Sabata Dalindyebo mayor Nyaniso Nelani, who officially welcomed the soldiers to Mthatha, said the local authority had a longstanding working relationship with the SANDF. In 2011, the battalion was awarded the freedom of the city of Mthatha and has reportedly worked with authorities on some municipal programmes over the years.

“We felt it proper to call upon their services in this time of need,” Nelani said.

Nelani, who took over the reins earlier this year, made cleaning up Mthatha his top priority. On Thursday, he told journalists that a dirty town would drive potential investors away while also posing a serious health hazard to residents.

“Restoring Mthatha to its former glory is a societal matter.

“We are trying to get everyone involved in turning Mthatha green and beautifying the place.

“The message we are trying to get across is that Mthatha does not belong to politicians and the KSD workforce, but to everyone who lives in it.

“Therefore, it’s everyone’s responsibility to ensure that the streets are kept clean.”

Asked if the cleaning efforts were paying dividends, Nelani said the feedback from communities had been positive already.

But he also said they were in the process of reviewing municipal bylaws and making them “airtight and ensure that there are no gaps”.

He said this would assist in ensuring that those caught littering and illegally dumping could face criminal prosecution.

“We have also appointed a head of legal services for that unit and are finalising the appointment of a panel of law firms.

“We want a situation where people who dump or litter can be criminally charged,” he said.

Mthatha Ratepayers and Residents’ Association spokesperson, Madyibi Ngxekana, said they were impressed by Nelani’s administration’s efforts in trying to clean up and beautify Mthatha.

But he argued that those efforts were being undermined by a lack of discipline within the municipality’s community services directorate.

“Perhaps there is a need to bring in new people to run that department because at the moment it’s riddled with infighting and jostling for positions.”

Eastern Cape Chamber of Business president Vuyisile Ntlabati said implementing effective bylaws could be a lasting solution to the scourge of littering and dumping in town.

“Dumping should be a criminal offence,” he said.