A large rubbish skip next to the Cape Town railway station in Newmarket Street was removed last week after neighbouring businesses raised concerns about the bin overflowing, causing a mess, and the container sheltering illegal activity.
The bin, which was placed there by Waste-Mart, which is contracted by Passenger Railway Association of South Africa (Prasa), was placed there in an effort to keep the area clean.
However, it did not work as planned, as the skip started attracting unsavoury characters and scrap collectors to the area, leaving a huge mess in the street, and creating shelter for drug users, criminals and prostitutes.
Beverley Bordalo, a sales representative at Waste-Mart, said the company removes waste at Cape Town station on behalf of Prasa.
“There were two areas allocated for the waste to be delivered to Strand Street and top deck. Both areas have a specified gated area for the bin to stand in, but Strand Street area had been overtaken by vagrants, causing obstructions for the bin placement.
“As a result the bin had to temporarily be placed outside the gated area,” she said.
Ms Bordalo said the bin had subsequently been removed from the area.
However, it seems the skip was just one of many aspects fuelling the increase in vagrancy, illegal activity and prostitution.
Abdul Yankinni, whose business is next to the site, said he faced problems with rubbish, drug use, prostitution and vandalism almost daily.
“The rubbish in the skip blows out and the whole road is filled with dirt. But the worst problem is with the drugs.”
While CapeTowner spoke to Mr Yankinni, he pointed out two people walking towards the dumping site.
The two men settled in a corner, took out hypodermic needles and injected themselves with whatever drug was in them.
“I’m glad you were here to see for yourself. I try every approach. I try to ask them nicely, I gave them food and asked them to stay away. I even try to talk to them about rehabilitation.
“Sometimes I chase them away, and when I close the shop at night, my vehicle, which parks in front of the skip, is vandalised and my wheels are stabbed.”
He said behind the skip on the side of the railway tracks was where criminals gathered.
Some, he said, claimed to look after the cars parked at the Castle of Good Hope, or on the side of the railway line, but cars were regularly broken into.
And since the security on the Grand Parade had been beefed up, he said, dealers were moving towards this spot.
“That dumping spot needs to be cleaned up, and Prasa needs to stop people from entering their premises.
“More needs to be done to get rid of these people. Our businesses are suffering. No one wants to come into a shop and see people taking drugs metres away.”
Another business owner, who did not want to be named for fear of being targeted, said the activity at the railway tracks was not good for business.
“The rubbish bin is removed, but they still urinate in front of the stores here.
“The Castle of Good Hope is a tourist attraction, but look at the lawn, with all the people sleeping on it. It scares tourists off.”
Ogbuefi George, who runs a take-aways, was happy that the bin was removed. “It caused pollution and the rubbish blew everywhere. I run a restaurant but it smells bad outside sometimes.”
However, he said, the space itself needed to be improved. “People smoke drugs and sleep in the corner, and urinate and defecate there too. They need to clean it up. Our businesses are suffering.”
Spokesman for Cape Town Central police, Captain Ezra October, said Waste-Mart had previously been issued with a fine for putting the skip in Strand Street, and it was subsequently moved.
He said police were aware of the concerns of the businesses in the area.
“When complainants come to report theft to the police, they say that criminals run through the fence onto the tracks and they disappear.”
Captain October said the issue at the space in New Market Street was a long-standing one.
“It needs a long-term solution. We have met with Prasa, and last year they fenced up the area which cost them about R20 000, but the fence is now broken.
“They have also closed off the buildings and locked all the access gates, but those are also broken.
“The issue is that there isn’t sufficient security to manage the space. There is only one security, and Prasa needs to allocate more to the area. The station is a large space.”
He said undercover police continued to deal with the drug trade in the precinct, and the police were open to discussions with Prasa on how to deal with the problem at the station.
Ms Bordalo said now that the skip was removed, a new plan to deal with the rubbish at the station had been put in place.
“WasteMart provided an on-site waste management solution to Prasa, which was implemented at the beginning of September. As part of the solution, all waste generated at the Cape Town station is taken to a centralised sorting area at the station, where it is sorted into various categories of recyclable, general and food waste.
“The above has resulted in a 70% reduction of their waste going to landfill, and food waste from the station is now diverted to the New Horizon’s Waste to Energy Plant in Athlone Industria, where it is converted to energy in the form of biogas.
“We trust the new waste management solution is supported by local businesses, as there will no longer be any waste taken to the Strand Street area, and we thank them for their understanding of the situation, which has now been resolved.”
Prasa did not reply to questions from the CapeTowner by the time this edition went to print.