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Household waste management in a South African township

Pewa, Mbali Khanya Patty


Mbali Khanya Patty Pewa


Andrew E. G., 1961 Jonas


South Africa emerged from apartheid in 1994 as a nation divided by race and class. The apartheid laws enforced separate development, which disadvantaged the black African population; especially the Xhosa people in rural Eastern Cape and the Zulu people in KwaZulu-Natal province. The democratically elected government inherited a country marked by social and economic inequalities, which had been enforced by the apartheid regime. A notable spatial variability in South Africa remains the difference in level of basic service provision between the former white suburbs and the black townships. The most visible evidence of poor service delivery in townships are informal household waste dumps. The main causes of the continuing waste problems in South African townships are high population growth and urbanisation rates, compounded by a lack of enforcement of environmental legislation. The transition to democracy demolished laws that restricted free movement between urban and rural areas resulting in large-scale urbanisation. This coincided with the integration into the national economy of black South Africans. The changes in their consumption patterns further accelerated the generation of waste. To remedy the household waste problem, a national policy framework was adopted focusing on achieving environmental and social justice while promoting economic development in deprived regions. The waste management policy aims to create sustainable and inclusive cities. Its implications and effectiveness have not been examined in township areas.

This thesis applies an approach of feminist political ecology to further the understanding of the complex socio-political relationships around household waste management in a multi-ethnic urban South African township. The aim of the research is to develop an in-depth understanding of household waste management in a post-apartheid urban township in order to evaluate the management challenges and identify opportunities for waste minimization. Fieldwork was undertaken in Lamontville Township, an urban community on the periphery of eThekwini Municipality, KwaZulu-Natal province, South Africa. The research adopts a mixed methods approach. Qualitative information was gathered through focus group discussions, participatory activities, as well as interviews with waste management stakeholders and key informants. Quantitative data was gathered through a structured household survey that was administered to household members in Lamontville Township. Secondary data was collected from government websites and officials.

The research suggests that the waste problems in Lamontville reflect a number of underlying issues. According to the local municipality, waste collection is prioritised in areas where residents are contributing towards local taxes. However, not all parts of the township have the option of paying taxes, including peripheral areas that have not been formally incorporated. Disproportionately, Xhosa people, recent immigrants to KwaZulu-Natal, are located on the periphery of the township. Findings indicate discourses around dirt, gender and ethnicity are prevalent among both township populations and local government, compounding the challenges of integration. New and different forms of discrimination have developed whereby people are excluded from service provision based on gender, class and ethnicity. The policy framework designed to counteract the ills of apartheid is not coping with the fragmented social landscape and therefore has not achieved social inclusion. The application of the national waste management policy further divides South African society, increasing the socio-economic and spatial inequalities and tensions between different communities.


Pewa, M. K. P. (2019). Household waste management in a South African township. (Thesis). University of Hull. Retrieved from

Thesis Type Thesis
Publication Date Oct 1, 2019
Deposit Date Nov 16, 2020
Publicly Available Date Feb 23, 2023
Keywords Geography
Public URL
Additional Information Department of Geography, Geology and Environment, The University of Hull


Thesis (10.9 Mb)

Copyright Statement
© 2019 Pewa, Mbali Khanya Patty. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

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