Waste pickers in trouble with Tshwane Metro over recycling site

The city of Tshwane has warned Mahlomola Lefumenyane and other waste pickers not to sort and store their materials opposite the Centurion Hotel, but they say they have nowhere to go. Photos: Kimberly Mutandiro

  • A group of waste pickers are in hot water with the town of Tshwane on land they use to sort and store their materials.
  • The group was relocated from a farm to Centurion after a court issued an eviction order against them.
  • The group was not allowed to move their recyclables to the new location and decided to occupy space under the bridge along Lenchen Avenue across from the Centurion Hotel.
  • The city says officials are in talks with waste picker forums to find a designated space for waste pickers.

Recently evicted waste pickers from Lyttleton Farm in Centurion now face another legal battle over the new land they recently occupied to sort their recycling materials.

Some of the occupants, many of whom are from Lesotho, claim to have been on private property, which they call Mushroomville, for a decade.

Human rights lawyers intervened when the City tried to evict the residents without providing enough housing for them to relocate to, as stated in a court order issued in June 2020. But the City complied weeks later and relocated around 200 people in December.

The city moved them to temporary accommodation in Sunderland Ridge. But after learning they couldn’t sort their materials on site, the group took all of their recyclables to the vacant space under the bridge along Lenchen Avenue across from the Centurion Hotel. The land is owned by the Town of Tshwane.

To compensate scavengers for goods removed from Mushroomville, most scavengers were paid 2,000 rand each, but they said this was too little.

Last week, the City confiscated their recyclables again, despite the waste pickers accusing the City of only giving them one day’s notice to remove their goods.

Mohanoe Mohlomi is one of the scavengers sleeping at the recycling site under the bridge. He said he left Mushroomville in October to attend to a family emergency in Lesotho and when he returned there was no room for him at the Sunderland Ridge resettlement site.

“My wife and child will soon arrive from Lesotho and where will we live?” He asked. He said the City took the equipment he planned to sell. “It’s as if we were trapped in an endless cycle of suffering. Since when is it a crime to earn a living?

Another waste picker, Mahlomola Lefumenyane, said his family has depended on the money he has earned from recycling for more than five years.

He said he gave up his place at the Sunderland site and slept with his recyclables to prevent the material from being stolen at night, although he lost most of his material in the city raid last week.

“We suffered huge losses and a lot of trauma because we were forced to leave our old homes. Now that we have moved to new lands to work, they continue to confiscate our materials. What do they want us to do? asked Lefumenyane. He said he was unable to afford school fees for his four children in Lesotho.

Lawyers for Human Rights has condemned the city’s actions and plans to submit court documents in this regard. “By confiscating their equipment, the city of Tshwane is making an already devastating situation worse,” said lawyer Louise du Plessis, who represents the waste pickers.

She said the City should allocate space for waste pickers to sort and store their materials.

The city’s Sello Chipu said waste pickers must follow waste management regulations. He said the land was not zoned for recycling.

But according to the city’s Nava Pillay, officials are holding talks with waste picker groups and Tshwane’s environmental management division.

Pillay said a proposal should be submitted by the end of February.

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