The death of four children after playing on a dumpsite has highlighted problems with waste management in Port Elizabeth and the lack of playgrounds for children in informal settlements.
The children died, apparently of food poisoning, after playing on a dumpsite about 100 metres from their shacks in Motherwell NU 30 at the weekend.
Asive Rhwayibana,11, her brother, Alizwa, 5, Alunamda Mqawu, 3, and his sister Zintle, 11, died on Sunday at the Motherwell Community Health Centre. Asiphile Grootboom, 7, was briefly admitted to the clinic and released.
Ward 54, of which NU30 is part, is where most people from informal settlements in Motherwell are being resettled. There are no formal houses but residents have built shacks on serviced stands where there is water and toilets, waiting for formal housing to be built.
Residents say the area is strewn with refuse because the municipality does not provide them with plastic bags, refuse collection services, or bins for waste. There are no playing grounds for children.
The grief-stricken mother of Asive and Alizwa, Nomthandazo Rhwayibana, 40, said her children and their friends always played around the dumping site.
“There is no playing ground for children so they end up playing there though we don’t like it,” she said.
Rhwayibana, who works in a bakery, said she could not remember the last time the dumpsite was cleared by the municipality.
She has two other children and lives in a one-roomed shack with seven family members. Before the deaths of Asive and Alizwa they were nine in the shack. She recently got this site after staying for many years in Hlalani informal settlement in NU8, Motherwell.
Mabuthi Phila,13, also of NU30, said children with nowhere else to play ended up playing in storm water drains and dump sites.
“The officials should look into this before many children die. We are using sewage soaked grounds to play. Some children play in the roads and others at dump sites. All these places are dangerous,” said Mabuthi.
Police spokesperson Captain Andre Beetge said, “All the children were apparently playing close to their homes and ate some foodstuff they found between the rubble. Some rumours about chips and cheese were doing the rounds, but police will only be able to get a closer idea of the cause of death once post mortems and forensic tests have been conducted.”
Nelson Mandela Bay acting executive mayor Thsonono Buyeye visited the families yesterday.
Ward 54 councillor Morgan Tshaka said he was busy in the mayor’s office making burial arrangements for the children. He said he would respond to GroundUp’s questions later.