Lockdown: Waste pickers fight work permit regulation
Pretoria - While the government does not dispute that waste pickers may operate under level 4 of the Covid-19 lockdown regulations, it has said they may only proceed with their recycling activities if they have permits.
This is detailed in an affidavit filed by the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, by Minister of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma.
She is opposing an urgent application which is due to be heard by the court today in which members of the waste-picking industry are asking the court to declare that they do not need a permit to work.
They are also asking for an order that they are free to work without being harassed by law enforcement officials.
They say that they should be allowed to work without having to first obtain a work permit, and that neither the metro police, SAPS, SA National Defence Force or any other law enforcement agency are allowed to harass them.
Dlamini Zuma said that waste picking has been categorised by government as a permitted service under level 4.
However, in terms of the regulations issued by the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment, they must first have a permit to operate, issued by the City of Tshwane.
In order to obtain a permit, the waste pickers must provide the municipality with their identity documents or passports.
Dlamini Zuma said this requirement existed long before members of the metro police seized their trolleys earlier this month as they did not have permits to operate.
The minister said the waste pickers knew at the end of last month, shortly after level 4 of the lockdown regulations came into operation, that they could not operate without a permit.
“There is no dispute that all informal waste pickers within the Tshwane municipal area may commence business activities, but it must be in line with the regulations,” Dlamini Zuma said.
The minister added that if the waste pickers were unhappy with the regulations, they should have challenged it.
But as things now stand, the regulations have the force of the law and it cannot be ignored.
The waste pickers are turning to court after they were allegedly intimidated by members of the armed forces on several occasions since the implementation of level 4 of the lockdown regulations, and told they may not work.
The last straw was earlier this month when they claimed the SAPS and metro police confiscated 15 of their trolleys.
Some of the trolleys were later found dumped along the road, but they were damaged and cannot be used again, they said.
Apart from being left alone to do their job, they also want an order that their trolleys be replaced or alternatively those who lost their trolleys are paid emergency damages of R3000 each.
The municipality, meanwhile, said in their answering papers that prior to this application, they had offered to pay each waste picker who had lost a trolley R500 a trolley as a gesture of goodwill.
They said it was thus not necessary to launch this application to receive money for their lost trolleys.
It was further said that the municipality has taken no stance regarding the operations of the informal traders during this time.
However, they need to comply with the regulations imposed by the government in terms of the working permits being in place before the informal traders can work.
*For the latest on the Covid-19 outbreak, visit IOL's #Coronavirus trend page.
** If you think you have been exposed to the Covid-19 virus, please call the 24-hour hotline on 0800 029 999 or visit sacoronavirus.co.za