Residents warned City of Joburg about deadly Goudkoppies landfill years before murders

A group of residents say they have complained to the City of Johannesburg about the health and safety hazards of the Goudkoppies landfill site near Eldorado Park and Devland but their pleas have fallen on deaf ears. 

This comes after five security guards were shot dead and two others injured this week when armed men approached the site. 

The residents live less than 500 metres from the landfill and have, for several years, complained to the city’s various entities.

In an email exchange between residents and the City’s entities, which the Mail & Guardian has seen, residents were told that an assessment and environmental health report was finalised on the conditions of the site after another formal complaint in March and April last year.

On Friday last week, an official from Gauteng’s environmental health department forwarded the case to the province’s department of agriculture and rural development, which is the responsible entity for the site or any proposed closures.  

An informal settlement of waste pickers who make a living sorting out waste for recycling, is growing around the Goudkoppies landfill. 

“Last year a woman’s body was found at that site. The death of these security guards is not the first. We have been complaining. The settlement is a mess, it is inhumane, people cannot live like that. They say there are about twenty thousand people there that call it their home. There is even a church. They have no access to water or toilets, nothing,” said Nicole Myburgh, who lives near the landfill. 

“We’ve been complaining about the health factors, the rodents, the flies but nobody is listening to us. The lifespan of a landfill is 20 years and this was developed here in 1988. These houses were here before this landfill. According to the municipal by-laws, the landfill should be three kilometres from residential houses, it is 500 metres away.” 

In 2017, when the M&G visited the informal settlement, Lapland, it was estimated that 5 000 people were living there. 

At the time, residents were rebuilding their shacks after a mass eviction by the city in 2016. 

“People are sick with liver problems, allergies. My children walk around with epi pens because of their allergies. The whole of Johannesburg dumps here. It is not only Eldorado Park’s dirt, it is the whole of Johannesburg,” Myburg said.

She has also written to the presidency, stating: “Please be advised that the following email is written with utter disgust that you have for the lives of Coloured people living in Eldorado Park.”

“We demand that this Goudkoppies landfill be closed down as per the municipal by-laws and that the informal settlement be demolished as it is inhumane and unhealthy for people to live in such filth.

“Our community has been complaining for a very long time to all the departments about this Goudkoppies landfill and the illegal dumping going on next to the landfill. We are being ignored, lied too, false promises are being made to us and nothing is actually being done about this rot that we have to live in.

“This is illegal and we have really had enough,” Myburg added.

Johannesburg member of the mayoral committee (MMC) for the environment and infrastructure services Michael Sun urged law enforcement agencies to work speedily to properly investigate this week’s shooting and bring those responsible to justice.

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Tunicia Phillips
Tunicia Phillips is an investigative, award-winning journalist who has worked in broadcast for 10 years. Her beats span across crime, court politics, mining energy and social justice. She has recently returned to print at the M&G working under the Adamela Trust to specialise in climate change and environmental reporting.

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