Life Under Lockdown for Reclaimers

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The coronavirus pandemic and the lockdown has been very strenuous, stressful and most
of all dangerous for us as reclaimers and for our families and those we attend to. The
stressful part of it is having to see reclaimers hungry and confused because they can’t go
to work or sell the materials they collect to buy basic needs like food or sanitisers.

As for us organisers, we went through hardships of sneaking to get to our members
without having the privilege of permits to travel and without public transport operating at
suitable times. Sometimes we walked long distances to get to people, motivated only by
self-determination and the desire to find solutions to problems faced by reclaimers.

We are still asking for donations from good Samaritans to help feed fellow workers and
ourselves with food parcels as the government’s social grants has rules and regulations
that does not address the needs of people in a pandemic. People have been asked to be
in possession of passports and permits; and citizens must have identity documents to
access assistance during COVID-19. This is causing divisions amongst the working class,
and within organisations like the African Reclaimers Organisation (ARO).

Who in their right mind in a pandemic would want all that instead of saving the people and
assisting everyone with all the basics to contain the virus? This is not what the government
is doing, they are actually using the pandemic for their own political agendas.

We are still challenging the government to review their policies because this is not working
for anyone, including the environment; and it is not conducive to the already weak
economy of South Africa. The reclaimers are being harassed by law enforcement agents
for trying to work to put food on the table, and this includes all those who work in the
informal sector, likes traders. People who work in the informal sector are not recognised as
workers who are the backbone of the South African economy. The government’s policies
instead support the formal capitalist economy that is busy making working class people
more poor and enriching themselves.

I call upon all informal sector workers to unite and form a strong movement to challenge
this system. Viva ngomzabalazo viva!

Steven Leeu is a member of and organiser in the African Reclaimers Organisation. This
article was submitted on 29 May 2020. You may republish this article, so long as you credit
the authors and Karibu! Online (, and do not change the text. Please
include a link back to the original article.

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