Another waste picker killed in compactor truck accident at landfill

2019-07-17 06:02
Waste pickers jumping onto a municipal truck at the New England landfill site yesterday. PHOTO: MOEKETSI MAMANE

Waste pickers jumping onto a municipal truck at the New England landfill site yesterday. PHOTO: MOEKETSI MAMANE

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A WASTE picker was killed when he was run over by a compactor truck at the New England Road landfill yesterday.

James Stuward died on the scene after he slipped and fell when he and other waste pickers jumped on to the compactor.

According to eyewitnesses, after he fell, Stuward tried to get up, however, the compactor driver who did not see him, reversed and accidentally ran him over.

The compactor truck belongs to a waste management company based in Mkondeni.

When The Witness arrived at the dump, Stuward’s body lay among the waste, under the hot sun. The body was covered and placed under a makeshift plastic tent while his relatives waited for a mortuary van to collect it.

While some waste pickers gathered around the body, for others it was business as usual as they continued to scavenge through the rubbish for plastic, cardboard and other recyclables.

Stuward (29) hailed from Malawi. He had been working as a waste picker on the landfill site since his arrival in South Africa last June.

He lived at Cinderella Park with his child and girlfriend.

His cousin Jafere Maduka, also a waste picker, said he was at the bottom of the landfill site when he was informed that Stuward had been injured.

“We walked together to work. We collected cardboard‚ bottles and plastic containers‚” said Maduka.

“Every month we would go and sell to companies in town. It was not much but we paid rent and bought food. We were able to make R1 000‚ depending on how much waste we collected. We sold our items once a month.

“My heart is sore. I don’t even know how I’m going to break the news to his mother back home in Malawi. I came to South Africa 10 months ago through him; now that he’s gone … I don’t know how I’m going to survive alone.”

Maduka described Stuward as a “responsible” man who did not drink and smoke. “The only reason he was here was to be able to put food on the table for his family and also send money back home. He is also cautious around the compactor, I don’t know what happened today. Some waste pickers would jump on to the compactor. He never did that. I don’t understand how he was killed by this thing‚” said Maduka.

One waste collector, who asked not to be identified, told The Witness that it was a harrowing sight.

“We tried screaming for the driver to stop but it was already too late. I saw his body lying among the rubbish, but I was too scared to get close,” he said.

“We always tell people not to jump on to vehicles because it’s dangerous, but they never listen. Being here is dangerous but what can we do because we need the money.”

An employee at the site said accidents due to negligence by some waste collectors at the site had become a daily occurrence.

“Last week when the mayor was here, we raised this concern. We need to have security guards patrolling here to make sure that people don’t jump on to moving vehicles.”

Pietermaritzburg police spokesperson Sergeant Mthokozisi Ngobese said a case of culpable homicide was opened at Alexandra Road police station.

• nokuthula.khanyile@media24.com
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