Uncertain future awaits informal waste collectors

Waste-Preneurs' waste depot in Greenside faces closure after receiving an eviction notice from the City of Johannesburg. /KABELO MOKOENA
Waste-Preneurs' waste depot in Greenside faces closure after receiving an eviction notice from the City of Johannesburg. /KABELO MOKOENA

More than 100 informal waste collectors are accusing the City of Johannesburg of trying to drive them out of business after they were served with a notice to vacate the space they occupy in Greenside.

The recyclers collect waste from nearby suburbs and sort and weigh it at the depot.

The depot near the Pirates Social Club is operated by nonprofit organisation Waste-Preneurs. Depot manager Godfrey Phakadi said the facility was created to reduce the distance waste collectors had to travel to sell their goods.

"There are only two weighing areas in Randburg and in the CBD and it is about an 8km drive from here. They walk the whole day with big brown trolleys that are not safe. We offer them portable and colourful trolleys, beeps and caps so they can easily be recognised," he said.

Phakadi said the club had allowed them to use the space and the local police had given them a second-hand goods certificate to operate. "We are now being evicted for no valid reason," he said.

John de Lange, 47, was living in a park when he saw the opportunity to collect waste, which he has been doing for a year. He makes about R500 a day and can look after his two children. "Closing this place down means I will go back to my life of poverty. I will no longer be able to take care of my children." he said.

Lerato Mokoena, 28, and Nyameka Mbeki, 35, are also worried about the closure of the depot, where they work.

Mokoena, an ex-drug addict, who helps waste collectors weigh their goods, earns R700 a week. He said he did not want to go back to a life of drugs. "I am begging the authorities to come here and see the number of lives they would be destroying if they shut this place down," he said.

Mbeki, a cashier earning R1000 a week, said: "I am a breadwinner in my house. I also take care of my mother and if I lose this job my family will suffer."

Pirates club manager Non Welsford said they were under the impression WastePreneurs had all required permissions when they gave it space.

City of Joburg spokesman Nthatisi Modingoane said the club, which has a long-term lease with the city's Property Management Company, was not allowed to sublet or allocate space to other tenants.

"The contract requires that the owner of the property be notified before any venture, like in this case, is embarked on," he said.


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