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All they need in Alexandra township is the Pied Piper of Hamelin

From cellphone give-aways to owls, and now rat traps. The city of Johannesburg has gone to lengths to curb rat infestation in Alexandra Township but all this seems to be an effortless exercise.

Alexandra, with a population of over 500,000, faces this scourge due to over crowding and limited knowledge of hygiene as well as a lack of resources.

With an army of rats still prowling the streets of the historically rich township, the city claims it’s winning.

Environmental health practitioner for the City of Johannesburg, Danny Mauwane, said the various projects put in place by the city have indeed motivated the community to cooperate in the task to eradicate the rodents.

In March 2012, Alex FM announced that the city needed the community to catch 60 rats in exchange for a cellphone. This rodent eradication project raised eyebrows as tax payers funded the project.

The second project following the cellphone initiative was the eco-friendly owl project which saw Eco Solutions donate four owls to feed on the rats. The owls were kept in a feeding box at a local high school for 21 days and released to hunt the rats. Bright idea, but the community killed the owls for superstitious reasons.

In their third attempt, the City of Johannesburg distributed 190 cages to various households which wished to help eradicate the rodents. After a cage is filled with rats, it is delivered to a state owned building called Three Square in Alexandra, where the rats will be gassed. The dead rats are later collected by Pik It Up and disposed.

As these projects continue, the rats start to feel threatened and move to neighbouring residential areas and business establishments. As a result, the city has put rat poison in hot spots such as taxi ranks. “Unfortunately such poison cannot be placed everywhere in Alexandra due to child safety. Kids here play in the streets,” Mauwane said. “So we put the poison in areas such as the Sandton taxi rank,” he added.

“We are now going door to door educating the community on how to dispose of their refuse. Rubbish should be taken out at 7am and also 1pm for the garbage truck,” Mauwane concluded.

But many Alexandra residents did not agree.

“How can everyone in Alexandra follow this because we hardly have bins let alone garbage bags? The garbage truck comes sometimes or maybe they go to other streets,” community member Tshepiso Tshweu said.

“What we need is a big bin where a block can dispose of their rubbish and this bin will be picked up when full.

“Those bins are costly but better than buying individual bins which can be stolen when left outside,” Tshweu added.

As night falls, the community braces itself for another sleepless night. In its own right, it needs the Piped Piper of Hamelin.

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