BULAWAYO waste pickers are risking their lives each time they collect and store waste at their homes, it has been revealed.
In a paper presented at the Bulawayo Waste Pickers conference held in Bulawayo last week, Matabeleland Institute for Human Rights (MIHR) coordinator Khumbulani Maphosa said: “Keeping waste in their homes poses health and safety challenges for waste pickers and their families. The waste becomes breeding spaces for rodents, flies, cockroaches and snakes.
“Those picking at Ngozi mine dumpsite have raised concerns of theft of their waste, while sometimes their waste is deliberately set on fire by competitors. Waste pickers in the central business district complain of rampant harassment by Bulawayo City Council (BCC) workers.”
Maphosa further noted: “Elderly women are regularly insulted and told to go and practice witchcraft in rural areas. Some female waste pickers have been robbed of their money and their waste pickings.”
He also added that waste pickers raised pricing concerns that buyers were paying a paltry $50 to $100 per kilogramme, depending on the material traded.
The conference was attended by various stakeholders, among them council officials, Environmental Management Agency, Small and Medium Enterprises Development ministry, Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission, Zimbabwe Gender Commission, Women Empowerment Bank and mayor Solomon Mguni.
Mguni said waste pickers must organise themselves into an association.
“There are a lot of waste pickers crying for empowerment and litter has become today's raw material. Why are we not taking advantage of that to reduce the burden of refuse collection and channel that money to other uses?” Mguni said.
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“You must be organised. I was happy when I heard that you are moving towards creating an association. I must take this opportunity to congratulate you on that.”