Tired of the rats and smell of rotting waste, New Crossroads and Green Village residents gathered their spades, pitchforks, rakes and refuse bags to clean up the pile of rubbish and transform the illegal dumpsite into a garden.
For years, the corner of Abonwabisi Street and Terminus Road, which stretches from the Nyanga taxi rank to Gugulethu, has been used as a dumpsite by the residents of New Crossroads and neighbouring KTC and Green Village.
It took residents three months to clean the pile of rubbish that has been the norm for years.
Passersby had to walk on the busy Terminus Road as the rubbish had rendered the pavement unusable. Residents dumped their waste here when the municipality’s rubbish trucks didn’t arrive and the site was littered with rotting animal carcasses and soiled nappies.
Instead of remaining idle as the stench pervaded their homes, residents decided to get rid of the rubbish once and for all. And the extended Covid-19 lockdown motivated them to take action.
Lulama Benge, Lulama Njova, Boyboy Fayo and 72-year-old Lizo Ncokazi were among those to take on the task.
Benge said they felt the need to rid their homes of the smell. “We couldn’t take it anymore. We used this opportunity to clean the rubbish as places of work were closed.” This time, they sat down as neighbours and came up with a strategy to make sure residents would have no reason to dump their rubbish there again.
“We decided to turn this place into a garden and a park where people can chill and breathe fresh air. That is how the idea of planting trees came about,” he said.
Benge said residents could not depend on the City of Cape Town’s refuse collection service to keep their streets clean.
What was a dumpsite has now been transformed into a beautiful garden with blossoming trees and flowers and a park, with patches of sand and grass and leaves scattered on the ground. The recycled tyre fence creates a barrier between the pavement and the wall belonging to the Red Cross welfare facility and Methodist Church.
Njova said luckily he was already collecting old tyres to fence the dumpsite. “When they [my neighbours] came to me, I told them I already have tyres. Everybody was so excited. We wasted no time and took our spades, forks, rakes and refuse bags and started to clean right away.”
Ntsikelelo Foya, whose house faces the former dumpsite, said: “Oh, finally we breathe fresh air. We can think freely now. Dirt suppresses the mind. No more rats from the dumping site coming to our houses. The rats used to come from a pile of rubbish and damage wires from my cars. That is no longer the case now.”
His wife, Nolitha Foya, added that for the first time in years, her children did not have a fever this winter. “I used to buy a lot of medicine for my children every year this time. Not a single one of them is coughing now. It’s all thanks to our sons, who have decided to clean and fence this place.”
Ncokazi did not hesitate when his neighbours came to him with the idea of cleaning the dumpsite. “As old as I am, I fetched my spade and joined. I am happy with what we have done. People sit on these tyres and eat.”
Njova said the rats coming from the dumpsite gave them sleepless nights. “I used to wake up after five minutes. The reason for that was because I feared the rats would bite children in their sleep. We decided to plant trees and flowers so that people would no longer dump rubbish again.”
Ntsikelelo said that what these men have done shows that they care for lives. “The smell that used to come from that rubbish affected not only us but the nearby Mkhanyiseli primary school. We had many meetings with the principal complaining that pupils cannot focus as they had to cover their noses. Not to mention the idea of planting trees and flowers. Trees alone bring life to a human being. Medicine comes from the tree,” he said.
“I wish they would make the whole township green. I am praying that they find more trees.”
Anyone who would like to donate trees, flowers, tyres or compost can contact Lulama Benge on 060 688 8384.