The ugly face of poverty

Women grabbing rubbish from an offloading garbage truck.

RUMMAGING through mounds of filth, competing with pigs, dogs and cows in search of their next meal. This is the sad reality of the lives of most of the people living in the dumpsite area.

These residents could teach anyone a thing or two about the truth behind ‘one man’s trash is another man’s treasure’.

They keep record of rubbish collection days as the days on which they will receive their next meal.

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“We often stay here until just before midnight every day,” said Aphiwe Mchunu.

Aphiwe, who currently has four children in school, said that she is worried about the fencing project, which will restrict access to the dumpsite.

“Even at this moment we are really struggling as we now have to use the main entrance to enter the dumpsite. It was easier when the gate closer to our homes was not locked. Here we operate on a first-come-first-serve system and thus the people who see the trucks head in here first, and still have the advantage of youth, are able to make their way here faster and gather as much food as they can,” said a worried Aphiwe.

Besides getting their food, dumpsite residents also toil away daily separating recyclable material from the rubbish and taking it to the local recycling plant.

Although it has not yet been confirmed, there have been rumours of the municipality formalising the recycling projects at the dumpsite.

This would mean that the dumpsite residents would be employed and start working under a proper structure.

Many of these community members are worried that this might limit the number of people who will get hired.

“The municipality has promised us jobs before and we were left waiting for years. Most of us currently depend on social grant money and even that is not enough to make ends meet,” Aphiwe explained.

It is unclear how the people currently staying at the dumpsite returned to the area, as they are said to have been given RDP houses a few years ago, but sold them and returned to the area.

The councillor of the area, Magda Viktor, has been doing what she can to reach out to these people, often taking food parcels to different houses at the dumpsite as a means to aid the dire situation.

“I try to help where I can and am often very astonished as I continue to learn about these people’s living conditions. I have no idea how they cope. My heart always goes out to them,” said Cllr Viktor.

“The people claimed to be unable to afford life away from the dumpsite as they get food from here and seek recyclable material to sell to local recycling plants. Most of them sold their RDP houses and returned to this place,” said a municipal official.

One way or another, the dumpsite residents will eventually have to be removed from the area as it is a health hazard for them to be living in the area, let alone eating the food which is being dumped there.

  AUTHOR
Sine Thwala

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