Meet Mpho Makutu - The man who builds robots from trash

Growing up in the rural village of Kopermyn‚ south of Polokwane in Limpopo‚ Mpho Makutu’s fascination with technology was a nuisance to his parents.
Mpho Makutu Growing up in the rural village of Kopermyn‚ south of Polokwane in Limpopo‚ Mpho Makutu’s fascination with technology was a nuisance to his parents.
Image: SUPPLIED

Growing up in the rural village of Kopermyn‚ south of Polokwane in Limpopo‚ Mpho Makutu’s fascination with technology was a nuisance to his parents.

He would “borrow” parts from his father’s music system to build his next childlike invention.

But today the 20-year-old’s skilful handiwork building robots‚ cranes and remote-controlled cars out of what many regard as rubbish is a marvel for tourists along the prominent Vilakazi street in Soweto‚ Johannesburg. And it puts food on the table for his family of four.

He can afford to buy groceries and pay his monthly rent from the money he makes from building his creations.

The ultimate among them is a red battery-powered robot that grabs objects and moves them around at the touch of seven different wire levers.

Makutu took two weeks to build this marvel‚ using discarded cardboard boxes‚ wires and scrap metal from dump sites around Johannesburg.

The second-year mechanical engineering student at Molapo South College in Johannesburg said he was fascinated by technology from a young age‚ and collected anything he thought was useful to build things.

He recalled once getting “quite a beating” from his father for removing parts of his treasured music system. But now he is proud of his son’s handiwork.

On a good day‚ Makutu makes up to R300 displaying his wares on weekends when he is not studying but lamented that he was unable to display his creations in the Johannesburg CBD‚ where he could make a better income‚ because the local metro police gave him a hard time.

In 2016 his wares were confiscated and he was told to pay R2‚600 to have the goods released.

“I went to their storage after two days and told them that I did not have that kind of money. They refused to budge but complied when I threatened them with lawyers‚” he added.

Makutu’s dream is to be an inventor with his own workshop so he can produce meaningful creations that create employment.

He has a “plastering machine” in mind as his next ultimate invention‚ which he said could solve the problem of construction workers falling from heights while plastering houses.

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