South African Waste Pickers to Visit Egypt

23rd October 2009 - South African citizens are joining the ever growing global movement of waste pickers [1].  These are people that either have never had jobs or who have lost their jobs due to policies that favour the growth of corporate – and not ordinary people’s – wealth.  Seven [2] waste pickers will be joining groundWork [3] in a visit to Egypt to attend a conference titled: ‘Towards a Culture of Sustainable Communities, Economies and Environment’ from the 27th of November to the 29th of November in Cairo.

The local waste pickers will be among delegates from countries across the world, whose income is derived from waste picking.  The conference will be hosted by Dr Laila Kamel who received the Goldman Prize [4] for her work with the waste pickers movement Zabbaleen, in Cairo since 1982, long before waste pickers and recycling were recognised as critical to society.

At the conference, waste guru Annie Leonard will be addressing the gathering on ‘Sustainable Consumption and Production’.  Leonard is the author, narrator and creator of ‘The Story of Stuff’ [5]  which is a seminal work on how poor production practices feed ever increasing consumption and growing corporate profits all at the expense of the earth and humanity.

The South African waste pickers are building on a foundation of action that started by them getting recognition in the National Environmental Management: Waste Act of 2009 as legitimate stakeholders that provide a benefit to South African society.   Following this success, groundWork has increased its work with waste pickers and in July 2009 hosted the first National Waste Pickers Meeting, pulling together waste pickers from throughout South Africa. The result was a commitment to collectively work towards a strategy of securing waste pickers livelihoods [6].   

Musa Chamane, groundWork’s waste campaign manager, said: ‘This is a step in our struggle towards environmental and economic justice for people who legitimately earn a living from the waste products of society.  We are going to learn from the experience of others to enrich our struggles in South Africa to be a block in building towards a unified global movement of waste pickers’.

The waste pickers will be leaving for Cairo on Sunday, 25th of October and return on Friday, 30th of October.

For more information:

Musa Chamane, groundWork Waste Campaign Manager 082 589 7928 

Footnotes: 

[1] While the Waste Pickers in South Africa have agreed to use the term Waste Pickers to describe their work, globally there are a variety of other terms used such as ‘Waste Reclaimers’, ‘Resource Reclaimers’ and ‘Waste Collectors’ to name a few.

[2] Bios of waste pickers visiting Egypt

Bulelwa Mazitshana is from Duncan Village in the Eastern Cape.  She is a young worker who, after her contract work with Shoprite ended in 2008, started picking waste to support her family.  She started a voluntary clean up group.  Her family is supportive of her work, and she sees a great future in it.

Contact: 073 510 2794

Simon Mbata is from Sasolburg in the Free State and supports a family of four.  He works as a recycler on the Sasolburg landfill, reclaiming metal, which he has been doing for 11 years. He is currently the Director of the Ditamating Scrap Metal Project and the Ikageng and Ditamating collective. Ditamating is a registered close corporation and was formed by waste recyclers to allow them to formalise and access rights to the recyclable materials on the landfill.   Simon started reclaiming at the landfill because of the scarcity of jobs in South Africa. His wife was studying at the time and he needed to support her.  Simon was involved in politics at school as an organiser of the Black Consciousness Movement.

Contact: 073 003 8170

Douglas Maphumulo is from Pietermaritzburg in KwaZulu Natal and has worked as a recycler at the New England Road Landfill for 10 years. He collects chicken feed, wood and materials for fencing and houses. Prior to this he was an entrepreneur with his own tuck shop which the police demolished to evict him and others from municipal land. He played a leading role in the struggle against this municipal eviction. Douglas wants the municipality to let reclaimers onto the site every day as formal recyclers because there are many resources being wasted in the landfill which can be used for the construction of houses and to create an income.

Contact: 071 626 2171 

Elizabeth Allart is from Lavender Hill in the Western Cape.  She is a 54 year old woman who is a single parent to 3 children.  She started picking in 1991.  She was a domestic worker but had to stop work because her parents got ill.  After the illness she learnt from her brother about people working on the landfill site.  With the money she makes she is able to pay the rent, water and electricity bills.

Contact: 072 593 7681 

Frans Monnye is from Lichtenberg in the North West.  He is a young 20 year old man who started working 5 years ago when his parents lost their jobs.  He is the first born of seven and assists in supporting his family with the income he gets from working on the landfill site.  He has only worked on the landfill site.

Contact: 076 834 4140

Simphiwe Nkosi is from Barberton in Mpumalanga.  She is 43 years old mother and a mother of two.  She started working at the local landfill site 7 years ago after she lost her job at Pick ’n Pay.  She supports her family with her earnings.

Contact:  076 822 6208

Charles Shiba is from Garankuwa View in Gauteng.  He is a 61 year old man married with 3 children.  He started working on landfill sites 5 years ago after he had lost his job.  He was introduced to the work on the landfill sites by a friend.

Contact:  074 612 7180.

[3] groundWork is a environmental justice organisation working with community people from around South Africa and increasingly in Southern Africa, on environmental justice and human rights issues focusing on Air Pollution, Waste (including Health Care Waste) and Environmental Health. groundWork is a member of Friends of the Earth International.

[4] See http://www.goldmanprize.org/node/115

[5] See http://www.storyofstuff.com/dvd.html#book

[6] See Declaration here.