Waste pickers demand a better deal
“We are fighting for our rights - we are fighting for our livelihoods,” said hundreds of waste collectors who marched through the CBD, led by the SA Waste Pickers Association.
They carried waste-collection bags and rubbish while running down Madiba Street on their way to Tshwane House, where they delivered a memorandum.
The waste pickers called on the City to stop the privatisation of waste projects, arguing that this took away their only source of income.
The organisation said it had for the past eight months been unsuccessful in attempts to make contact with the City.
“The waste hierarchy stipulated in the Waste Act 2008, says that waste reduction and diversion from landfills was the government’s main priority.
"We recover materials at dump sites and on city streets, but our contribution is not being recognised,” their memorandum said.
They demanded that the City develop local government capacity to engage with waste pickers, build material-recovery facilities to be managed by co-operatives, and assist in the training of the co-operatives to ensure better management.
Additional demands were for the development of municipal composting and biogas systems, and the immediate cancellation of the privatisation of waste management.
Simon Mbatha, chairperson of the association, said for the past five years, three landfills had been closed down, and no alternatives were proposed for waste pickers, who provided a valuable service to the city and its people.
He said: “We want to ensure the integration of waste pickers into the City's waste-management system. Waste pickers segregate, pick up and recycle waste, which ensures the prolonged lifespan of the dump sites.”
Mbatha said the waste pickers had been working hand-in-hand with the Department of Environmental Affairs to ensure they were integrated in to the waste-management system.
He said the City was perhaps not aware of their existence after the change of administration, and they wanted to engage the administration early to avoid claims they did not know of the work they did.
“The City seems to be distant and unwilling to come to the table, hence we have taken the decision to take our pleas to the streets.
"Waste pickers play an important role in waste management and we also ease the burden of unemployment on the city,” Mbatha pointed out.
“We segregate the waste and ensure the increased lifespan of the landfill. We save transport costs, while also being able to provide for our children and put food on the table.”
MMC for housing and human settlements Mandla Nkomo received the memorandum and assured the protesters it would reach the relevant authorities.