Writes: Ngwedzeni Mudzielwana
South Africa has over 100 000 registered waste pickers and reclaimers meaning that these are people that collects waste, package waste for selling as recyclables for living. They are playing a big role in the waste economy which worth billions and most importantly they are reducing environmental pollution. Waste they collect could have been disposed of at landfill sites and therefore their work helps reduce quantities of waste to landfill sites and therefore preserve air space.
On declaring state of emergency and announcing lockdown due to Covid-19 pandemic, the president of the country, Mr Cyril Ramaphosa did not announce waste pickers and reclaimers as essential services. This came as a shock to many reclaimers who rely on waste picking and reclaiming for living. “We are going to die out of this Coronavirus and we will go hungry because no one cares for us, said Simon Mbata, chairperson of South African Waste Pickers Association speaking to Moudy Mudzielwana of Tshikovha Times. He emphasized that government has done well to prevent the pandemic however the waste pickers have not been prioritized by Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries. He said the waste pickers do not have any other way to make income and their role is essential in improving environmental impact.
Pictures from the TV has shown many reclaimers complaining that they are not essential service and they are starving and cannot send money home to their families. Those in landfills complain they do not even know of Coronavirus and they have no sanitizers and essentials to prevent infection and questioned government priorities.
As if the Minister Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, Barbars Creezy has announced partnership with Coca Cola Beverages South Africa to distribute food parcels to waste pickers and reclaimers starting in Midrand.“As the collection of recyclables has not been included as an essential service, the consequence of this is that waste pickers are unable to work during the lockdown period. As a result, hundreds of waste pickers are currently experiencing situations of extreme hardship,” said Minister Creecy.
Coca Cola Beverages South Africa Managing Director, Velaphi Ratshefola said when the Minister called, there was no hesitation from their side because the aim is to contribute into saving lives. He said they will also provide distribution of food parcels to different destinations where they are needed
The distribution of the food parcels for waste pickers is a partnership between government and Coca-Cola Beverages South Africa. This support is aimed at assisting waste pickers during this national lockdown as part of the interim relief efforts, she said through her office. Source: Media Statement published by Peter Mbelengwa and Albie Modise of Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries