Deputy Minister Barbara Thomson saddened by the death of a waste picker at the New England landfill site in Pietermaritzburg

25 March 2018

 

The Deputy Minister of Environmental Affairs, Ms Barbara Thomson has conveyed her most heartfelt condolences to the family of Ms Nswaki Mahlakwane, a waste picker who tragically lost her life at the New England Landfill Site in Pietermaritzburg on 14 March 2018.

Deputy Minister Thomson has expressed sadness at the untimely death of Ms Mahlakwane. “I am deeply hurt to learn about Ms Mahlakwane’s tragedy. She had gone to the landfill site to fend for her family, just as she and many of her colleagues do on a daily basis. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family,” said Deputy Minister Thomson.

“The South African Police Service is investigating the circumstances that led to Ms Mahlakwane’s death, and we are confident that the findings will help in bringing about some closure to the family and colleagues of the deceased,” she added.

It is reported that the 56-year-old Lesotho national was caught in a trash compactor vehicle while in the process of picking waste items at a landfill site. The deceased, together with her fellow waste pickers make a living out of waste picking. They collect waste items and trade them for some cash at various buy-back centres.

The Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) recognises that recycling has enormous economic potential, with conservative estimates putting the financial value of the formal South African waste sector at R15 billion. Waste pickers play a vital role in keeping the streets in cities clean. “It is for this reason that we are in constant engagements and partnerships with various stakeholders including the Waste Pickers Association in our effort to improve the conditions under which the waste pickers operate,” says Deputy Minister Thomson.

Deputy Minister Thomson has urged all waste pickers to exercise caution while collecting waste material at the landfill sites and on the roads as they transport them to buy-back centres.

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