OPINION | Slummies — the city of festering neglect

Gathered piles of empty bottles littered on the East London beachfront.
Gathered piles of empty bottles littered on the East London beachfront.
Image: Theo Jeptha

There's a good reason people call East London "Slummies" and "Slumtown", and it's no joke. The city is filthy.

As you drive past the airport an appalling amount of litter, and other kinds of detritus, assault the senses with an overload of sights and smells.

For visitors, unconditioned and unsuspecting, the situation must be even more jarring. 

And the mountains of trash, made up mostly of alcohol bottles reportedly emptied by hoards of underage drinkers on our beachfront lately, serves only to highlight the problem.

Buffalo City Metro is now synonymous with two terrible things: abject filth and drinking among people too young to do so legally — children, that is.

The litter is so bad that a single flash flood turns urban roads into lakes and rivers, and taps far and wide go dry for days, or sometimes even weeks, because of the damage done to the infrastructure.

This is because the tides of waste block stormwater drains and clog water pumps until they burn out — leaving a metro full of citizens without water even though its dams are full.

And it seems little action is being taken to address either problem.

The city grows dirtier by the day, and instances of rowdy youngsters running rampant through the city brandishing alcohol grow ever more common.

When we hear that those meant to enforce the law merely confiscate the alcohol and issue verbal warnings, we cannot wonder why the youth are undeterred.

After the tragic events at Enyobeni tavern last year, the shock alone could have -— surely it should have -— galvanised parents into action, or at least increased awareness levels and reduced the trend.

Alas, if anything, public underage drinking seems on the increase.

With these parties come mountains of bottles and other trash, like glowing green signs saying: "We don't care."

Therein lies a large part of the problem. There's an apathy throughout the city. Young people seem to simply accept that they cannot change things.

They see the place as a giant dustbin, and feel nothing about adding another bottle, packet or paper to the pile.

For their part, parents appear resigned to teenagers who rebel, and don't even try to enforce any discipline.

But when there is another tragedy, what will they say? Will there be another frenzy of finger-pointing, with everybody both condemning everybody else and shirking their own part in it? 

Perhaps when the people of East London start taking responsibility for how they discard their own rubbish it will indicate they want to be part of the solution, not the problem.

These two issues may seem different, but they are closely intertwined, not least because they make our city an embarrassment, infamous worldwide for festering neglect.



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