WATCH | 'Things are bad' under lockdown, says Joburg waste picker

Informal recycler Mduduzi Nkhambule is relieved to be working again under Level 4, but the economic effects of the nationwide lockdown have meant that he has to work twice as hard to make the same amount of money as before.

Nkhambule makes a living picking up waste in and around Sandton, north of Johannesburg, after losing his job fixing coffee machines. He takes the waste to local recycling companies in return for some change.

"The lockdown Level 5 situation was bad, but we were still recycling and keeping what we found. Then scrap yards opened again [under Level 4 lockdown]. But the prices for items found has gone down," Nkhambule said.

After President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that the country would be moving to Level 4, Minister of Trade and Industry Ebrahim Patel confirmed that recycling centres, including waste pickers, could return to work on 1 May. 

Nkhambule told News24 that, on a good day, he now only makes R80 at most.

"The prices for items found has gone down - before the lockdown, I was making about R100 and something. Now, sometimes I have to keep what I earned the day before to last the following day," he said. 

"We try and buy the basic foods we need with the small amount of money we're making now."

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Nkhambule wakes up at 04:30 each morning to get ready to head out at 05:00. He generally starts at a spot he identified the day before.

The waste picker told News24 that he had received a food parcel organised by the Joburg MMC (member of the mayoral committee) for environment, infrastructure and services Mpho Moerane in April.

But he said waiting to get help from the government or other people was not sustainable as he'd be waiting forever. He has to provide for himself.

Nkhambule said he was working hard to save money to get his learner's and driver's licence, in order to find work as a long-distance driver or truck driver. 


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