By Kimberly Mutandiro
“The life of a waste picker is hard especially during this time of the Coronavirus,” says Elizabeth Moloi. She survives on collecting waste material which she sells for a few Rands in town.
Before the lockdown she used to sell her material making R300 every one to two weeks managing to buy a few provisions for her children.
Since the National lockdown was announced in March, the recycling firms she sold her material to were closed leaving her with no other source of income. She had managed to buy basic food before the lockdown started. But eventually the food ran out.
A single mother of three, she has gone through a lot of hardship to buy food for her family.
However, Moloi has never stopped collecting recyclables. She was determined to stock up for when recycling firms opened. She says when police saw her walking around looking for recyclable material during the lockdown, they would tell her to go home. Although she promised them, she would still find herself on the streets pushing her trolley.
“It pained me even more to see my children cry of hunger. I was better of pushing my trolley that way l knew l was doing something.”
In the streets some people would feel sorry for her and give her money or food.
Every day, she wakes up early in the morning and walks from her home in Ekuthuleni informal settlement near Kwathema to collect recyclable material. She goes to many places around the township, sometimes picking through dustbins. She can walk as far as Springs town some 10km away pushing her trolley.
At times she passes through a market to pick thrown away vegetables to cook at home, she says.
Moloi does not earn a grant for her children. Although she used to, she says her card was blocked. She suspects that some of her relatives reported her to social workers because she used to drink beer. Although she has since stopped drinking, she says social workers have failed to help her. At 51 years of age she is still far from earning a pension.
“Maybe l am just unlucky, but l worry more about my children, sometimes they go to bed on an empty stomach.
Moloi has no protective clothing to protect herself while working. But she endures just to help put food on the table.
Some recycling firms in Springs recently opened to help waste pickers sell their material. But Moloi says the rates she and other waste pickers sell their material for have fallen per kg. They now sell for a small amount of money.
”But it’s better than nothing. If l can only manage to buy some mealie meal my children can cook porridge and eat.”
Moloi says she never received food relief which was promised to resident during the lockdown. She only hopes that the government can help her so that she can earn a grant. It would make a big difference in her children’s lives.