Waste pickers fight Covid

By Everson Luhanga

They could be seen dragging trolleys picking up rubbish in suburban streets. But now these men and women have your safety against Covid-19 at heart.

If you are a taxi user or shopper, they’re keeping you safe.

The people you see in action are all informal waste pickers who have been trained to sanitise public places like taxi ranks and malls. They are from Wastepreneurs, an organisation managed by Supplier Development Initiative (SDI). 

Run by the president’s son, Andile Ramaphosa, SDI has trained 30 waste pickers to help fight the pandemic.

Their leader, Godfrey Phakedi, told Scrolla.Africa the waste pickers have been hard hit by lockdown regulations. “The men and women live by hand to mouth and with lockdown, they have not been making any money.”

Godfrey, however, heaped praises on SDI for helping them with food parcels and other necessities during this hard time. “Officials from SDI have been helping waste pickers, the homeless, car guards, and those begging at robots across the greater Johannesburg area,” he said.

He said the team was trained about the dangers of COVID-19, how to stay safe, and how to use the sprayers.

Godfrey said he was happy for the opportunity of working. “I will be the happiest person if the job could continue for all the 30 members and roll out to many others,” he said.

Lindiwe Scheepers says she is excited to have the job. “I have been picking waste around Emmarentia for the past two years,” she said. 

“Before that, I was unemployed. I couldn’t find a job and I decided to start picking and selling waste for survival.” 

Waste pickers took part in deep cleaning at both Sandton Taxi Rank and Pan Africa Mall Taxi Rank in Alexandra. Several provincial MEC’s and representatives of Johannesburg mayor were there to see their work.

“This is to enable the waste pickers to earn an income during the lockdown period and beyond,” SDI co-founder Brad Fisher said. “And to empower them with dos and don’ts during this time of Covid-19 outbreak.”