The discussion so far


One of the main reasons this conversation has moved to the Swellenngram was that new members could not read what has already happened. So, with names removed, the following transcript of messages from the Clean Air WhatsApp Group follows. Where there’s a blank line, its a new message:

I absolutely support the suggestion that the present dumping site be closed but there must be a new site allocated with a different Management structure that will prevent the “mafia” to establish itself.
Swellendam NEEDS a dumping/recycling site…would be worth researching successful municipalities/countries in this regard…
Maybe we could come into some kind of agreement with
1) the present recycler to take all the wires etc that would be of value
2) Swellendam residents to separate such waste and get that collected once a month or whatever the need is…
OR create some employment to one or two people to “clean”up the wires and such for selling to the recycler…contributing to their salary🤔
There must be a way…


That’s the plan but the present one has to be closed and the fire put out. The municipality are not doing as they should and we need to take them to task on this. We need to work together and come up with the best possible way of solving this extremely unhealthy sutuation

The issue at the dump is much more complex than mere air pollution. People are living there, livestock are allowed to graze among the rubbish. Meat that then becomes available to the black market. Domestic dogs are also taken to the dump to feed and become diseased. Will the petition address all these issues?

…. already write a letter to everybody that is responsable as well as the minister with drone photos the works wonderful what she already done but that is a major concern that need attention as well as proper recycling plans etc

My answer to her…
At this point I think that we are just gathering a group of concerned residents to see what needs to be done…


…. is 100% correct. All of this has to be brought forward.

Is it at all possible to share …. letter? Just so that we can get a sense of where we are in this process.
I am new in this group and wanting to add my concerns regarding the Suurbraak tip into the mix.

Absolutely – so complex that we could become overwhelmed by it all. Somehow we need to take it all in, and then focus on the priority. Maybe once we have the interested people on this group we can meet to discuss how to proceed? And keep in mind the vision of clean air for all 🙏

…., recovering from a serious lung infection and was referred to …. regarding the clean air issue. Over the past two years I have sent numerous message ek CLR …. with zero results.

The Green Swellendam Initiative has been formed to become an umbrella orgnisation for a variety of sustainablity initiatves in Swllendam. The inaugural meeting of the Swellendam Conservancy will be on 4th March. Please send your email address to me ( to be kept informed and invited. The meeting will be widely publicised. We are looking for volunteers to help us set up the Conservancy. Looking forward to some action. ….

…. – here for only 2 years but have developed asthma for the first time in my life and had chronic allergies as well – recently burning itchy skin😆

It is getting late. Maybe we should stop communications until tomorrow again? Though everyone can mute this group of course…

…. Have been concerned for a very long time. Thank you for this initiative!

…. – SPCA, we have reported problems following complaints received and also issued recommendations. Never had a response.

Below is the message I sent to people in my contact list who I thought would be interested. It is best if each one does the same as it carries more weight if you are personally connected…
You can simply copy and paste into each one’s box.

Hello friend,
We are forming a group that will create a petition or “something” to get the permanent fires that are burning underground at the dump site, created by a kind of “mafia” that gets children to burn the plastic off wires that come in, so the adults can go sell the copper….and much more. There is all sorts of toxic stuff being dumped there, including medical supplies and such, and it just gets burned with everything else.
That has created a lot of dis-ease in the environment of Swellendam: internal and external allergies etc…
We need to gather People power right now.
Would you join us?

Hi all,
Before we develop a petition we need to understand the problem such as:
What licensing does the municipality have for the dump, and what provisions have been put in place to ensure compliance.
This could include security, the control of ‘dump pickers’, the control of fires etc.
Has anyone done this investigation?
Stopping the use of the dump without alternative arrangements will not and cannot happen.


Hello – would Swellengram be acceptable as a platform to encourage people to sign up? something like: “We are forming a WhatsApp group to express concern and look for solutions regarding the health and social problems created by the Swellendam dump site – click here to join the group”

I think 2 tenders were recently published by the municipality; for a waste manager and for waste management services. Does anyone have details?

Where were they published? On their wesbite?

Yes, if you give me a while I’ll fill in the gaps

I think I saw them in the Bulletin

I’ll go ahead with the Gram ad as above this morning unless anyone says “no don’t” !


Great! AND I’m going to send you info about the Swellendam Conservancy meeting and a request for volunteers – for tomorrow’s Gram!

…., please publish any information you have on the group WhatsApp so we are all kept in the loop.

I found this on the Municipal website:TENDER NO: SMT19/19/20

….Thank you …. – I know you have had recent comms with various parties – please fill us all in x

Blue and Green – in more ways than one! –

Fantastic ….. Thank you❣

….: 🙏

To officials and councilors concerned:
We address this letter to you as concerned residents and ratepayers for the Greater Swellendam Municipal Area.
During weekly visits to the Bontebok waste site, it has become apparent that little or no supervision takes place and that the site has degenerated into a disaster area.
Our concerns are the following:
1. Recycling – the limited formal recycling that used to take place appears to have collapsed totally and no organised recycling is evident anymore. 
Structures have been vandalised, broken down and removed from the area. 
2. The resident site population, including children, unsupervised pets and livestock appears to be on the increase. Living on a refuse site carries its own health and safety risks. 
In addition, residents feel unsafe when accessing the site due to the sometimes intimidating nature of people demanding monies for services that were not asked for. 
3. Air Pollution : Particularly during warmer weather, the site can smoulder for days, releasing toxic smoke which is inevitably blown towards Railton and Swellendam residential area by the prevailing summer South Easter. This results in allergies, breathing discomfort, sinus headaches and general malaise. 
In addition, this poses a fire hazard to Bontebok Park, Swellengrebel Airfield, Railton and surrounding industrial and agricultural land. 
4. Airfield Flight Path: Due to the uncontrolled fires and heat, thermals are formed which suck  plastic bags into vortex which can caused serious accident risks to aircraft on final approach to the Swellengrebel Airfield. These bags have been reported from aircraft at 2500ft. 
In addition, the surrounding nature reserve and agricultural land gets littered with plastic bags. 
We do not wish to labour the many obvious points relating to this Municipal disaster. It is of our opinion that this unsatisfactory state of affairs cannot continue unchecked and indefinitely. 
Swellendam Municipality needs to accept responsibility and implement a proper waste disposal process. 
There are numerous examples available ie Gordon’s Bay, Knysna, Plett, Mossel Bay of functional recycling refuse sites. 
We would appreciate your feedback on a proposed solution and an immediate extinguishing of smouldering fires at the site. 

…. Letter Sent 28 Jan

I’m not interested in a witch hunt but really we need to solve this issue so…
This letter was addressed to the District Council, Swellendam Municipality and Min. Bredell.
I have since also spoken to Mr Kotze from the ODM, who was able to shed more light on the situation. I believe he has visited the site. It was a long conversation and he made an effort to point out the issues.
I have since noticed that Swellendam Municipality has made an effort to extinguish the smouldering fires. These fires are burning quite deep into the refuse and trying to extinguish them is taking effort. The efforts are appreciated.
The refuse site is now being run by an informal gang who are collecting money by burning plastic off of cables and selling the copper wire, metal cans, etc.
Municipal workers are being intimidated and the bulldozer stopped from doing its work. Police are not wanting to get involved.
I believe we are given the option to send our recycled refuse to a site at Karwyderskraal and that the Bontebok site should be for garden refuse and building rubble only.
Plett, Knysna, Sedgefield apparently send all of their hard waste to Mossel Bay.
I believe that Swellendam and our satellite towns need to make a conscious effort to recycle and maybe look at learn from places like Gordon’s Bay, Knysna and Sedgefield recycle depot.
In a positive light, let us also use this forum to come up with recycling ideas.
ONLY feedback was from Anton Bredell’s office to say that the letter had been forwarded to Dept of Enviroment.
Hierachy of needs: clean air is paramount.

Why is it that cops have the luxury of deciding they don’t want to be involved. Surely it’s part of their job if there is a criminal element or does it fall under law enforcement? Just a question.

So far no crime being committed.

Thank you …. for your efforts. We can only achieve change if we all stand with you and get things done. What can we start to do?

I agree completely with …. We need to stand together but not become aggressive. The reason for this us to find a solution that works for all.

All get into a recycling mindset.
Just for interest…
Sedgefield has a system which allows indigents who have collected waste to receive coupons from the waste depot to be used at a local charity shop.

And kids to get stationary or sanitary wear. Perhaps plastic bottles can be stuffed and be turned into bricks. Bottles cut and made into bottle bricks for building

Agreed. The priority is to extinguish the fires so that we are not continuing to fill the air with poisons. Then restructure.
This hot topic has been going on for years – so it appears it will take a focussed effort to create the change required

And it works well👍

The Swellendam Mayor has kindly sent a reply.

I’ll share later

Looking forward what he has to say. Thanks …. for driving this issue!

Great idea!

Bravo …. for leading the charge. I like your positive and supportive approach.
Please continue to lead, but support is available if you need it.

Wonderful! My many calls and a letter a few weeks ago was not responded to at all. Let’s continue to offer support for what is alive and working now!

When I raised this concern at last year’s open municipal meeting , I was told that Sakkie Franken ( Overberg Mayor ) has this matter in hand and is busy with our dump issues – perhaps he is the one we should be asking ?

Thank you everyone for your positivity! Together a change can be made!

Sakkie did say a new site was being prepared at Karwyderskraal, and all Overberg towns would be sending waste there…No time frame given, though!

they have a facebook page which is very inspiring and worth following ..

Hi everyone. Just joined the group and if possible could we get an update on what’s happening? I notice I’m not the only latecomer? 😊🙃

…. at this stage we’re gathering interest and sharing what we know about the situation so far. Read the letter posted by ……

Recent joiners can’t read previous posts. Maybe post the letter in the group description?

I see that Karwyderskraal is close to Botrevier/Kleinmond…that’s pretty far from Swellendam?

Too much to include in description. Will have to set up a dropbox and give each new person a link

1.5 hr drive – will have to have a collection point in Swell and regular trucks to Karwyders

Great link for overview if the issues and opportunities. Thank you! I’m excited.

There are different possibilities in my opinion. Maybe drop ours with Bredasdorp. Keep in mind it is hard waste ie tins, plastics, glass etc.
Our wet waste along with garden waste will probably continue to the Bontebok Waste site.

So we would need to have different colour bags and a separate collection day for recycled stuff that could then possibly go to Bredasdorp as you suggested. The garden refuse should be in a separate area where it can be chipped and turned into that could become a small business opportunity


Personally l would prefer that glass, plastics, metals, paper, were all kept separate to cut back on man hours needed for sorting but baby steps for now. Apparently Knysna has a truck with a trailer. All recyclables are in a clear bag and tossed onto trailer. Regular wet waste on truck.
It would be great if we had cardboard/paper and glass bins in town. Unfortunately it would have to be supervised to stop regular refuse from being dumped.

We also then have the problem of people scratching through the bags on collection day… Where does all of the items they take land up, I wonder..

I know …. tried to get glass recycle bins in the town but sttuggled

The people scratching through the bags on collection day are looking for tins, cables, scrap metal. I usually separate all my cans into a box and leave it out for them. As a result, no more rummaging through bags. They also appreciate leftover foods from the weekend however this holds a risk if anyone gets ill, you will be blamed.

People with their own garden should be encouraged to have their own compost heap. It’s absolutely amazing what can be composted, it’s great stuff to improve your soil and it’s free. It takes a big junk out of our weekly garbage.

….can attest to the fact that composting for yourself reduces your garbage ‘footprint’ at the dump….?

Thank you. Love this 😄

I’m wondering if we’re getting sidetracked. One of the issues is recycling – and that’s an important subject. However the original impetus was to gather people power to have the municipality put the fires out. As …. mentioned it is burning deep. This is a huge thing to address. We are waiting to hear what the municipality is doing about that. Perhaps we need to create another group to discuss recycling and run with that. Even if we started recycling right now the general waste would still include plastic wrapping and items that can’t be recycled – which is also burning. The burning has to stop – it is illegal and toxic to all life.

Exactly why they need our input! Very carbon intensive to have to drive waste all that way to start with. Secondly, Karwyderskraal is part of a watershed that feeds into a massive wetland system at Fisherhaven.
And thirdly, this is all just same old, same old thinking. We need a wholy new paradigm going forward. Plenty of business/employment possibilities. Haven’t yet looked at the Sedgefield article but going to now.

I personally believe they are all linked and cannot happen without each other

Shall I organise a get together so we can formulate a way forward? Maybe next week?


The fire dept is aware of the smouldering refuse and l have noticed that there is less smoke. Unfortunately the smouldering is coming from deep down and very difficult to extinguish. This in turn creates a safety risk as there is no longer compaction and a possibility of sink holes.
This morning l did see the bulldozer working and a lot less smoke.

Happy to be here!

I am the process of making an appointment with relevant officials and will give feedback

I think that we all need to take a step back. This entire initiative was started by …. and she has advised me that she would like to continue with the initiative.

So there is absolutely no need for others to hijack …. initiative and arrange parallel initiatives and meetings. I will certainly not feed parallel efforts by attending the meeting …. has suggested. The entire issue needs focus and that it has. Let’s all support ….

I am not quite sure I understand what you nean but I think everyone in this group is truly grateful for …. efforts and supports her efforts 100%. I am also thankful to …. for starting this group.


Thx …. wise words and thx …. for taking the initiative. We have your back and will supply input where we can. Own experience with our municipality is that they are a great bunch of guys and more than willing to listen. Once we have feedback as to their own progress around this issue it will help us to understand the actual problems they face which will allow us as group to stratagize and assist in a constructive way.

Hello all – isn’t it amazing what interest this is creating! Thank you all. I suggested this group open – and it seems it took wings. I met with …., …., …. to begin this and I welcome all suggestions as long as we can stay calm. It may be good to meet so that we can find a way forward as the focus tends to change each time a new member comes in who can’t see what was previously written. Whatsapp isn’t great from that point of view

Fantastic ….. Being calm and supportive is the way to go.

This is sooo inspiring. Watch it.

It just shows how import an issue this is for all of us Swellendam residents


…. mentioned that she is meeting with officials. Why don’t we wait for feedback from …. and then possibly arrange a meeting of all interested parties.

I agree

I think …. initial letter pretty much covered all stakeholder’s concerns and I thank her for taking the lead. I’m sure this group can remain as an info group, as matters progress and we can all support when called to. Thank you ….

I have to point out that there has been plenty of correspondence from various parties which we have to respect and hopefully we don’t try to reinvent the wheel.
My role is not to drive the recycling which although I’m very excited about, I believe there are far more competent persons on this forum.
My sole purpose here is to find answers from our local authority and a time frame in which they can rectify the problem and to give feedback.
The recycling will require public participation and education. I’m not going to get involved on that score except to recycle my own waste.
Let us try to keep posts to a minimum to stop participants from leaving. Maybe The Swellengram be our communication forum?



The Swellegram is more than happy to support the initiative by communicating info – (and as other people have mentioned above, in an unemotional no blame way) I am wondering if the best way forward is to make use of Swellengram’s website, so that an interactive dialogue can take place, such as the recent water debate. The advantage of this is that comments are screened before going public. Links to the page can then go on the Gram, ensuring that interested people are the ones that engage.

Great idea – thank you ….

I see new members have joined recently. Just to let you know that a letter has been presented to the local and district municipal authorities by …. and we are waiting for feedback from them regarding the progress with regard to resolution of the dump issues. Meetings are happening. We’re all offering support for this process at the moment and await more news. Enjoy the day😁

Thank you.

These kids do not belong at this dump and especially breathing in the toxic fumes from fires which burn 24*7.

Agreed. What can one do about it?

…. is busy arranging meeting with the relevant authorities regarding these fires. She will give us feedback.


A bit of exposure on Swellengram would not hurt.
But if we are to be reasonable the kids referred to might just be bloody hungry and without parents, or perhaps they are controlled by a gangster element (as has been suggested).

The bottom line is that you don’t treat the symptom, you correct the problem.

Let’s see what transpires with …. meeting. It’s a step in the right direction. No ills are cured in a flash. Little by little.

Yes, little by little – and with the support of all the members of this group, more can happen. There are members making investigations into the issues – gathering information – and hopefully they’ll be sharing their findings with this group as we go along. Thank you …. for visiting the fire department.

Is it not possible that all comments can go to a couple of people, gathered and then and maybe once a day it can b related to the group

I find it easier if I mute the notifications and check the messages when I have time.


I also want to stay connected every step of the way

Yes me too. 🙋‍♀

Would like …. number. Will give advice, but not on whattsapp 😉

Hello Clean Air group💚
Just wanting to check in:
I would love to be part of discussions to find solutions for what I personally feel is one of Swellendam’s biggest embarrassment and failure really (being the “best” run municipality)….ie the dump.
It has the potential to become a hub of industry and job opportunity just like the City of Cape Town recycling/waste projects which are truly inspirational!
One could:
– Recycle (glass, tin, plastic, everything really)
– Composting the entire of Swellendam’s Organic waste
– Chipping for mulch to sell
– Second Hand buy and sell
– Organic gardening for community
There is just so so so much that can be done with that current abomination!
I am as I’m sure we are, particularly concerned about:
The children and the diabolical conditions that’s they live in
The adults ditto
The animals ditto
Last but not least: the despicable disaster to the environment (air, earth, water).
I am keen to at least get everyone concerned together and/or join the current discussions to begin the brainstorm of how to bring change.
I know many have lived with with for years and we are new to Swellendam but really believe this could be something that could be MASSIVELY positive for the environment and for Swellendam and ALL it’s people!
Shall we all meet?✨✨✨

Would love to meet!
Can we meet over a weekend?

Hello …. – lovely to hear such enthusiasm! Some meetings are happening over the next few days to gather information re the current affairs so that we can all be more informed.

Did you notice the Air Pollution at Soill.

Not yet today, but that is a different matter. Will look when I go to town.



  1. steve

    all dumps site have waste burning , this due to methane gas trapped below the surface –it will burn for years to come and you cannot just ” put it out ” -This cannot be done
    Lower the height of the dump and spread it more evenly over the ground given for the dump site

    The vagrants are not burning insulation from wires –the wire does not even make it to the dump site only the cut off insulation which happens AFTER the wire is stolen and dumped on site the copper is sold to other metal collectors direct

    This problem you talk about is not really a problem but a man made problem by having to many in the group and far too many inputs and no one wanting to get his or her hands dirty –you cannot armchair manage this one and also remember that the smoke you see “From the dump ” is at times not from the dump but rather from the brickfield baking bricks –who knew of that one ?

    Move back –elect two persons to manage the dump and your problem will be solved

    Its just a case like all problems in South Africa –too many cooks –every one thinks they have the correct solution while moving away from the problem in the first place

  2. Terrence Roy Andrew

    Steve, a brilliant comment. There are too many who wish to gain some fame by offering to convene a meeting – aka, make me the chairman. There are also too many issues being discussed – all important but detracting from the initial issue of smoke from the dump site.
    When your up to your armpits with crocodiles, it is often hard to remember that the initial problem was to drain the swamp.


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