South Africa rat battle takes hit from garbage strike


South African garbage workers may have gone out on strike but Johannesburg’s rats are still hard at work, giving the rodents a leg up in a battle with city officials.

Johannesburg last month launched what was described as a “military style assault” on its urban pests — some as large as cats and known for their aggressive behaviour.

Officials in Africa’s richest city said they were now worried the strike could leave rubbish piling up on the streets, undermining their efforts to trap the rats and stop their spread, Reuters reports.
“We are sending a message to the community that people must not take out their dustbins (during the strike),” said Johannesburg city spokesman Nkhosinathi Nkabinde.

The garbage workers from the SAMWU union walked out on Monday, seeking wage increases of 18 percent.

The union staged a similar strike earlier this year that left huge heaps of rubbish across the city, all of them prime feeding and breeding grounds for the rodents.

The rats have already infested slums in several parts of the city of about 3 million people and are blamed for attacks on several infants.

Monday’s strike was a setback but Johannesburg has not given up hope. Before the rubbish collectors walked out, city officials made sure they had labelled another set of municipal workers as “essential”, preventing them from downing tools.

They were the city’s frontline soldiers in its all-out assault — the men and women who set the traps and smoke out the rats dens.