Reaching out to a forgotten community

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ST P2MAIN Dumping Site_024 INLSA HELP AT HAND: About 3 000 people living at a Randfontein dump site will feel a little bit more normal this week when the charity group Gift of the Givers highlights their plight and brings medical care, food and clothes. Pictures: Tiro Ramatlhatse

POLOKO TAU

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ABOUT 3 000 people living at a municipal landfill on the West Rand are set to have their spirits lifted this week by the charity organisation Gift of the Givers.

Situated behind a mountain of rubbish on the southern edge of Randfontein, the dumping site has been home for more than a decade to some of these residents, whose livelihood depends on scavenging for recyclables and selling them.

It may be situated outside the actual landfill, but the settlement itself is not very different from the dumping site. It has no proper ablution facilities, has rubbish strewn all over the place and rusty back-to-back shacks.

But this week, Gift of the Givers wants to give the residents something to smile about.

ST p2sec Dumping Site_227.JPG MERCY MISSION: A hardy group who are forced to live hand-to-mouth are happy to receive any help they can get. INLSA

The organisation’s Allauddin Sayed said yesterday they had been on site for the past three days.

“We want to highlight these people’s plight to the government and say ‘These people do exist and they live in a bad situation’.

“We have five doctors who will examine and give them medication, while we’ll continue with daily food distribution,” Sayed said.

A group of women from Gift of the Givers were cooking inside a big truck, while others were bathing babies, clothing them, and distributing nappies and shampoo to their mothers.

A social worker from the nearby Toekomsrus township, Christi Coetzee, described the living conditions at the settlement as “squalid and depressing”.

She said: “There are no toilets and there was only one tap for about 3 000 before a few more were brought in recently. These people are South Africans from all over the country, while others are from outside the country, but they’re all here to make a living out of the dumping site.”

Resident Stompie Jofile, 38, said she had lived at the landfill for five years. “I’m from Bekkersdal near Westonaria, and it was poverty at home that drove me to the dumping site.

“We live like pigs and actually we share our living space with pigs, and I feel like we’re a forgotten community which no one ever thinks of,” she said. “We make just enough money to buy something to eat daily and nothing more than that. We’re forced by circumstances to be here.”

Mabonani Tshabalala, 44, has lived at the landfill since 2002 and said she had “never lived any better life”.

“This is my life, scavenging recyclables and selling just so that my two orphaned grandchildren should not go to bed on empty stomachs.

“Everything here is misery; bad health, filth all around us, crime and hopelessness, but we survive.”

Tshabalala added: “I wish those in the government could put themselves in our position and feel our misery.

“People who don’t really need houses get them, while we’re left to live in wobbly, corroded shacks and breathe the horrible smell from the landfill.”


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