Marie Louise is one of the landfill sites that falls under Pikitup, a company of the City of Johannesburg. The landfill site is in Vogelstruisfontein in Randburg and 250 reclaimers work in the landfill. The workers work in two shifts, in the morning and the afternoon. The workers elected their own committee to represent their needs with the management.
During the lockdown workers were not working, until Level 4. When the news arrived that we were going back to work, we knew that the lockdown was not over and that we still need to comply with the laws. We met as a committee to see what we could do because the number of workers was more than the COVID-19 limit allowed.
Some reclaimers had gone back home to Lesotho and this reduced the total number of workers. So we managed to organise the two shifts of workers at Marie Louise into four groups. Two groups worked in the morning and two groups did afternoon shifts, and they worked on alternative days. At the gate when you entered every morning, the Pikitup security screened us for our temperature. This is how we managed to ensure everyone had work and also controlled the social distancing amongst the workers. The African Reclaimers Organisation (ARO) played a big part by giving us masks, sanitisers, and water.
In the morning shift we don’t have many non-South Africans, only one woman and 13 men, but in the afternoon shift we have 76 men and 32 women who are non-South Africans. For now we are all still working but if the City of Johannesburg insists on only South Africans working, many will not get the work permit because many are classified as ‘foreigners’. This will be a tough time for ‘foreign’ workers who must also pay rent and who also have children to care for. This will affect everyone in the community.
Justina Madumo Khoele is a member of and organiser in the African Reclaimers Organisation. This article was submitted on 30 May 2020. You may republish this article, so long as you credit the authors and Karibu! Online (www.Karibu.org.za), and do not change the text. Please include a link back to the original article.