Fed up residents take drastic steps over Tsosane dumpsite



MASERU – The lingering issue of the Maseru City Council (MCC) Tšosane dumping site has forced villagers to take drastic measures, including closing gates and roads to prevent further garbage dumping. The pervasive stench and hazardous conditions have made it unbearable for residents to endure. In recent developments, the police Special Operations Unit (SOU) visited the Ha Tšosane community last Thursday to quell the unrest.

During the encounter, the villagers reiterated their stance that they would not vacate the site until MCC fulfilled their agreed-upon engagement timeline. The villagers were observed holding placards; some bore messages such as ‘Garbage must go’, ‘Go and dump it at Pitso Ground’, and ‘Rats, cockroaches, and ants must go’.

In an interview with Public Eye this week, Kelebone Tšilo, a resident, recounted their encounter with the SOU police the previous Wednesday. He explained that members of SOU visited in response to the unrest, affirming that they would persist until the MCC honoured their agreement to engage. Tšilo noted the lack of communication from MCC and recounted an unsettling interaction with regular police on Thursday, who issued threats against anyone impeding garbage dumping.

“MCC is not communicating with us at all. Our agreement was for them to come back to us within 12 or 24 hours to discuss a way forward and what needs to be done to end this crisis. “MCC are using their power to repress villagers, as they are legitimate. MCC have given three-year contracts to people who collect trash and who also dump the same garbage on the dumping site; what should we call that?” he questioned.

Tšilo further noted that the crisis of the dumping site traces its origins back to 1997, with a devastating fire occurring between 1998 and 2002, resulting in significant health hazards for villagers who were unaware of where to seek assistance. He lamented that the initial intention for the dumpsite was to serve as a landfill, eventually covered with soil for community rehabilitation or park creation, but these plans never materialised.

In 2005, a contractor assessed the site, informing them that its capacity would last only five years and thereafter should be closed and relocated to Tšoeneng in Rothe, on the outskirts of Maseru, a plan that never came to fruition. Asked for comment, the MCC Public Relations Officer, ’Makatleho Mosala, said MCC has engaged with community members on multiple occasions, resulting in various developments.

However, attempts to establish direct communication channels with community representatives were unsuccessful due to members’ dissent. Mosala cited a recent council meeting where it was agreed to involve community representatives in direct communication with MCC.

Regarding the relocation of the dumpsite to Tšoeneng, Mosala clarified that the process is ongoing. Advertisements have been issued seeking Basotho with vehicles willing to transport garbage to Tšoeneng. However, she noted that progress is impeded by villagers who refuse permission for anyone to approach the dumping site, causing disruptions during relocation efforts.

Meanwhile, the Transformation Resource Centre (TRC) commemorated World Water Day by visiting the Ha Tšosane villagers on March 22, 2023, to offer support and address grievances related to the dumping site.

During the commemoration, TRC Representative Lira Theko expressed the organisation’s decision to mark the day in solidarity with the plight of Ha Tšosane and Tšenola villagers grappling with the garbage dumping site. Theko voiced the organisation’s dismay at the Ministry of Local Government’s inaction, despite previous assurances that the site would be relocated to Tšoeneng.

Addressing residents at a public gathering in April 2023, the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, responsible for Environmental Affairs, Limpho Tau, acknowledged the flood of complaints received regarding the dumpsite. He revealed that numerous private companies had approached the office seeking engagement to manage the site.

Tau apologised for past government failures to relocate the site as requested, assuring Ha Tšosane residents of the current government’s commitment to completing the project.

He disclosed that M300 million had been allocated to level and compact the dumpsite, with plans underway for an expert multi-sectoral stakeholders meeting involving residents to chart the way forward and facilitate the eventual relocation.

“However, I must emphasise that M450 million will be required to transform Tšoeneng into a proper dumpsite, free of the hazards present in Ha Tšosane,” Tau cautioned. He criticized the local government ministry for prolonged delays in addressing the issue, warning of potential intervention by the Ministry of Environment if the situation persisted. Research indicates that escalating emissions from waste disposal not only adversely affect the climate but also pose significant health risks. Environmental contamination can lead to various diseases, including asthma, birth defects, cancer, and cardiovascular ailments.

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