Municipality to shoot illegal waste pickers with pellet guns

Kailene Pillay, The Witness

Pietermaritzburg - Extreme security measures, such as shooting illegal waste pickers with pellet guns, will soon be implemented at the landfill site in New England Road, Pietermaritzburg.

However, GroundWork’s waste campaigner Musa Chamane said this goes against democracy and basic human rights.

“The municipality forgets that waste pickers are people too. We should not be treating people like this in our democracy,” said Chamane.

In a report to the council’s executive committee, new and tighter security measures were discussed following a recent security assessment of the site.

The report showed that current security measures were “insufficient” as waste pickers “intimidate” customers.

“The private contracted security guards are unable to control the tip pickers from … scattering all over the site thereby intimidating customers and standing outside the main gate waiting to jump into customers’ vehicles,” read the report.

In addition, council reported that the waste pickers damage the fencing around the landfill site, erect illegal structures to sell recycled goods and set up fires and sleep on the site.

Chamane added that the waste pickers were “angry” with the municipality after they were promised a material recovery facility almost five years ago.

“We and the waste pickers have been in discussions with the municipality.

“We were told that money was available to build a conveyer belt where the waste pickers could stand on the side and take what they wanted before it reached the landfill site,” he said.

“It is surprising that money is available for all these extra security measures when we were later told that the money for the material recovery facility was no longer available.”

DA councillor Judith Lawrence raised concerns in the meeting, saying that pellet guns were “too forceful” and paintball guns would be better.

“What if someone gets shot in the eye? These people are firing at people who already have the least in life, and we are going to make life even more difficult for them. Paintball guns are enough to frighten them away,” said Lawrence.

Chamane said he agreed with Lawrence in that pellet guns are too dangerous to deal with the situation.

“These people are just earning a livelihood and as government we should be creating a conducive environment for them to do so. We will not accept this violent resort.”

However, Msunduzi mayor Chris Ndlela said that pellet guns would be used on “rare occasions” and should someone be shot in the eye, “we will have to live with the consequences thereof”.

In addition to security guards wielding pellet guns, three high security monitoring towers will now be built at three strategic points for security to scan the entire site.

Guards will be equipped with binoculars, a PA system, portable radios, pellet rifle and a site plan. The site will also be equipped with 24-hour CCTV cameras and high mast lights.

The Witness