At own risk

The Rundu town council says the women collecting items from a local dumpsite to sell are doing so at their risk.

11 July 2019 | Local News

High levels of poverty and joblessness in Rundu have forced impoverished women at the town to make a living from collecting recyclable materials at a local dumpsite.

For some, this has been their life for the past 20 years.

They visit the dumpsite on a daily basis, in search of recyclable materials, which they sell in order to support their families.

Namibian Sun spent a day at the dumpsite on the outskirts of Rundu earlier this week and engaged the women, who shared how they make a living.

The women (Namibian Sun counted a group of 33) are from various informal settlements at Rundu.

They did not shy away from revealing the harsh realities they face each day and said it is no secret that the majority of people in the two Kavango regions are enduring poor living conditions.

Their day starts at 07:00 and they gather discarded items until 17:00.

They collect recyclable items such as glass, plastic, tins and other metal objects, and sell them to recycling companies.

The women, however, revealed they are sometimes only paid after three months, which is a source of great unhappiness.

This is because buyers apparently have to sell the items before the women are paid. Some receive N$500, while others get as little as N$50 or N$100, depending on what has been collected and how hard one works.

They last received their payments in May, which means they have been living off next to nothing since then.The women also said their situation has worsened this year because of the drought.

“This has been our lifestyle for many years; some of us have been here for about 20 years, living off the trash in order to feed our families,” one of the women said, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

“This year it is tough for us because we cannot even leave this job to go and work at our mahangu fields at the villages. The fields are clear because of the drought and we now look forward to the next rainy season. For now we will just struggle here, hoping that we collect items and that our buyers come forth to pay us.”

Not an option

The women said sitting at home and doing nothing is not an option for them.

When asked whether they have looked for other jobs at the town, the women replied “no”.

They explained the only employment opportunity available is doing odd jobs in households, which always ends with employers failing to pay for their services.

“Some of us have tried working in houses around the town, but things don't turn out well. You will clean their houses and wash and iron their clothes, but when it comes to the end of the month, the owner will come up with excuses or sometimes they pay you less money than what you initially agreed upon. This is why some of us decided to come to the dumpsite,” one of the women said.

IDs out of reach

Namibian Sun also established that the majority of the women do not have national documents; something they said is a priority for them.

When asked why they do not have these documents, they explained that whenever they visit the home affairs office at Rundu, they are informed they need to present their parents' documents in order to get an ID.

They said their parents do not have national documents.

The issue of people not having national documents, especially in the two Kavango regions, is a serious concern, as citizens do not have access to certain services and benefits offered by the state.

The women questioned why it is easy for them to register as voters, yet they cannot get government IDs.

Rundu acting strategic executive for community services, Ladislaus Shikerete, said the town council is aware of the presence of the women at the dumpsite.

Shikerete said the women are at the site at their own risk, as they are not employed by the council.

He said the council is tolerant of the women because they are making a living from the waste.

“We know they are there and we know how it impacts their lives, but in terms of the safety and hazard aspect, it is not the council's responsibility,” Shikerete said.

He added the council manages the site through a council employee, who is stationed at the dumpsite, as well as through a security guard who maintains law and order.


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