City proud: couple spend their days cleaning up PMB’s streets

2013-04-09 00:00

A KILLARNEY Terrace couple, tired of living in a mess, have taken to cleaning Pietermaritzburg’s streets themselves.

Daniel Nel (50) and his life partner of 28 years, Elizabeth Armstrong (53), have been doing so for nine years.

The pair can regularly be seen with their brooms, sweeping and picking up litter in Burger and Jabu Ndlovu streets and around nearby office blocks.

On Thursday, Armstrong was sporting a yellow top to match the sunny day, wearing make-up and pink lipstick.

By about 9.30 am, the couple had already filled up several bags of rubbish in Burger Street.

Originally from Cape Town, Nel moved to Maritzburg in 1981.

The two lovers met when they were in their 20s at Pietermaritzburg railway station, where Armstrong worked for the Receiver of Revenue and Nel was an assistant train driver.

Nel was forced to take a medical board after he was involved in a motorbike accident in 1986, while Armstrong took hers in 2001 when she was involved in four car accidents in one month.

“I just got out of the taxi and I said that’s it. I went to the doctor …,” she said, adding that the doctor had advised her against travelling. But luckily, she had already bought her flat before she retired.

They both live on government pensions supplemented with the money they get from cleaning the streets. They do not have children.

Some businesses pay them about R150 a month for cleaning in front of their properties and they get donated refuse bags.

After spotting the two on the streets, Rentals dot com has since offered them a cleaning job too.

Having lived in Pietermaritzburg all her life, Armstrong said she was determined to see the “filthy” city restored to its former glory.

“I’ve watched Maritzburg change from what it used to be to people just throwing litter down anywhere. When I was small they used to fine you, but now people can just throw beer bottles anywhere. People must stop that.”

Not only do they pick up bottles and food packages, they also find condoms, sanitary towels and babies’ nappies lying on the streets.

However, they do their job with smiles on their faces.

“At 6.15 am I’m already out on the streets picking up the rubbish, even though now it’s getting cold. But we thoroughly enjoy it. It gives us a bit of an outlook and we’ve made a lot of friends,” she added.

Nel said: “I stay here and I love a clean environment. Everything around our flat must be clean.”

“I work hard and night time my back is off. When I go home I take a nice hot bath and then she [Armstrong] rubs me.”

The couple said they were planning to start their own gardening service, but they cannot afford to buy a lawnmower and weed cutter.

“He’s desperate for a lawnmower if I had all the money I’d buy it for him,” sais Armstrong.

He said he had a bit of luck and picked up a few coins from time to time. “That’s my tip. But they don’t want to leave me a bigger tip you see,” he joked.

If they are not cleaning the streets, Nel is watching sports on TV and Armstrong is at home cooking.

Helga Barnard, of Dihlase Consulting Engineers, in Burger Street said: “We’d like to thank Nel and Armstrong for their efforts. They are an example to others.”

The couple said they hope to achieve a cleaner city especially for when visitors come to PMB.

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