Waste pickers lament nondelivery of karikis by Enviro Mobi

The manufacturing plant where the karikis are produced. (Paul Botes/M&G)

The manufacturing plant where the karikis are produced. (Paul Botes/M&G)

It has been almost a year since 58 waste pickers, representing 15 co-operatives in Ekurhuleni municipality, were promised three-wheeler motorbikes — also known as Kariki Waste Ways — by the Gauteng department of agriculture and rural development and the politically connected company, Enviro Mobi.

The waste pickers still don’t have their karikis, meant to make it easier for them to collect waste. Instead, the department has had two launches that seem to have been mere publicity stunts. It has since emerged that the three-year, R26-million contract between the department and Enviro Mobi was unlawful.

The dodgy contract in which Enviro Mobi, a company in which ANC spokesperson Pule Mabe once held a directorship and now holds patent rights, has been referred by Gauteng Premier David Makhura to the Special Investigations Unit for alleged financial irregularities.

READ MORE: SIU probes Pule Mabe’s associates

The Mail & Guardian spoke to some of the waste pickers who were expecting karikis.

Duduzile Mchunu, chairperson of Lakhwisha Waste Co-operative in Vosloorus, said: “Enviro Mobi approached me early last year and said they wanted to make the work of a waste picker’s life a bit easier. It really hurts a lot that we still don’t have motorbikes, which would have made a huge difference. This is how we make our living, this is how we pay our children’s school fees.

[Duduzile Mchunu from Lakhwisha Waste Co-operative in Vosloorus]

“And for a person to come and say they will do this for us, and not deliver, they are killing our business and our hopes ... that one day this business will be a mature business.

“This is a job to us; it is not a joke. We are proud of what we are doing on a daily basis. We wake up every day, we come here. Rainy, cold, hot and windy like today, we come here.”

Salphy Nkoana, chairperson of the Masupatsela Waste Co-operative in Tembisa, said: “After our sales we manage to share the money, but the most important thing for us is banking some of the money, so that if something is broken, we are able to fix it. Also, we are able to buy ourselves food and live.

[Salphy Nkoana from Masupatsela Waste Co-operative in Tembisa]

“We were happy to work with Enviro Mobi and it took us through some training; I got a learner’s [licence] and I even now know how to drive a scooter. But we are still waiting for them to be delivered to us. “We have been to launches [organised by the Gauteng department of agriculture and rural development], but until now nothing has happened. We could be more productive and able to collect from many different places. We can even collect four or five times with those scooters.

“They brought three of those scooters here last year, but they then took them back for one of the launches. Since then, nothing.”

Suzan Kubheka from Intleindaloyakhe Waste Co-operative in Daveyton said: “We are waste pickers and also buy waste from households and Abomarhereza [informal recyclers]. I got to know about Enviro Mobi last year, when they told me that they got my name from the Gauteng department of agriculture and rural development’s database.

[Suzan Kubheka from Intleindaloyakhe Waste Co-operative in Daveyton]

“They said that they would be implementing a pilot project to help us with licences and learner’s [licences], and that they would give us scooters.

“They called us three weeks ago, saying there was going to be a handover [on June 4]. They told us that motorbikes would follow on the Thursday or Friday [of that week], but never delivered them. It looks like someone is taking advantage of us by making empty promises with something that can grow our companies. They are destroying us. The government is trying to help us, but our own people are oppressing us.”

READ MORE: Company’s website and app are empty shells

Ntombi Nkosi, a waste picker at Minenhle Waste Co-operative in Tembisa, said: “There were 22 of us when we started, but some of the people gave up because they believed that we were being played. There are 14 of us now. We were promised help with scooters to collect waste in the township. But it has been a long time now. We don’t know if we will ever get them.

[Ntombi Nkosi, waste picker at Minenhle Waste Co-operative]

“These scooters would have meant that we don’t have to leave our waste unattended when we collect around the township.

“The challenge is that, when you leave your waste unattended, someone else picks it, which means you would have worked for nothing on the day. But when you have that scooter, all the bags of waste will be inside it and no one would take it.  With the little we get we are able to buy food and make a living from it.”

READ MORE: Officials want ‘secure storage’ for scooters

Dan Mangolela, also from Minenhle co-operative, said: “We work with recycling bottles, boxes and tins. After collecting we sort them out so that we can bale them properly. I did my learner’s licence in September last year and we were told that we would get training in Krugersdorp on how to drive the scooters, but we are still waiting.

[Dan Mangolela from Minenhle Waste Co-operative in Tembisa]

“These scooters were meant to help us collect individually, instead of relying on the only truck we have.

“Promises have been made, but we don’t think anything will ever happen. We could be picking up lots of loads from different people and areas, but that is not happening.” 

Thanduxolo Jika

Thanduxolo Jika

Thanduxolo Jika is an investigative Journalist and Co-Author of We are going to kill each other today:The Marikana Story. The Messiah of Abantu. Read more from Thanduxolo Jika

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