groundWork (Friends of the Earth South Africa)
Hlanganani Ma-Afrika Waste Picker Cooperative


Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, 10 November 2015 – Waste pickers will tomorrow morning at 05h00 lock the gates of the New England landfill site, preventing municipal garbage trucks from entering the site. This is in response to the Msunduzi Municipal executive committee, last week, announcing they would chase waste pickers off the site with pellet guns.

It is in protest too against the longstanding failure of the municipality to build a materials recovery facility (MRF) despite funding of R21 million for the project in 2012 given by the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA). This is not the first action taken by the waste pickers regarding this project [1].

In The Witness on Friday [2], Msunduzi Mayor Chris Ndlela was reported as flagrantly endorsing the use of pellet guns to force waste pickers off the landfill. It is at the landfill where waste pickers derive income, save the municipality space at the landfill and help reduce greenhouse gas emissions by recycling and limiting what waste is left to decompose. Waste pickers aid in combating climate change.

Despite this, waste pickers continue to urge the municipality to recognise them as legal workers integrated into the waste management system.

In email correspondence with groundWork today, Sunjoy Ramu Raghunandan the Deputy Municipal Manager: Infrastructure of Msunduzi Municipality and sits on the executive committee states:

We as the landfill management do not support the restriction of the tip (waste) pickers’ activities so long as they are prepared to work with us and to keep the site where they store their materials clean.  We certainly do not want security to shoot anyone on site. 

He also explains, however, that the security company has “their own plan to regulate the activities of the tip pickers” and he assures this “will be done in a humane and organised manner”.

On the matter of the materials recovery facility, which would see waste pickers recovering more recyclables in a clean and safe area, Msunduzi Municipal Manager Mxolisi Nkosi stated on ENCA’s Checkpoint [3]:

“…probably down the line there might be a way of benefitting but then I would be lying to you if I was to say our waste-to-energy project will benefit waste pickers.”

Instead of building a MRF, the local municipality has other plans to build a power generating waste incinerator. This would not only leave waste pickers without recyclables to generate income from, it would also result in serious health implications for the greater Pietermaritzburg community from air pollution created by the combustion of waste.



[1] groundWork press release, 10 December 2014 – “Waste pickers to take to streets”; groundWork press release, 17 June 2014 – “Msunduzi Municipality puts job creation project on back burner";
[2] The Witness, 6 November 2015 – “War on waste pickers”
[3] ENCA Checkpoint, 28 September 2015 – “What a waste”


Megan Lewis
Media and Communications Campaigner
Tel (w): 033 342 5662
Tel (m): 083 450 5541

Musa Chamane
Waste Campaigner
Tel (w): 033 342 5662
Tel (m): 082 380 2237

Hlanganani ma-Africa Waste Picker Cooperative:
Nonhlanhla Mhlope
Tel (m): 082 703 1915