THE DUMPSITE BECOMES A MEANS OF SURVIVAL
by Paulus Shiku
(NAMPA FEATURES SERVICE)
KEETMANSHOOP, 16 MAY (NAMPA) ? To battle unemployment and hunger, some poor and jobless people in Keetmanshoop - as is the case in many other parts of the country - flock to the dumpsite very early every day to collect whatever useful rubbish and materials they could find.
Apart from the glass and cans which they sell to recycling companies, they also collect discarded clothes, which they wash and sell to get some money for food.
Some of the people who spoke to Nampa at the dumpsite on Thursday said the place has been a source of employment and food for them for many years.
?There are many people here. Children and older people flock to this place every morning when the trucks come to dump the rubbish,? said Johannes Ritz, a man in his late 30s, who has been frequenting the dumpsite for years.
Hermanus Awaseb, a 20-year-old who attended school only up to Grade Six, said poverty forced him out of school prematurely after both his parents died, and no family members wanted to take care of him.
He has to struggle to buy food and clothes for himself these days.
?I had no option, but to come collect bottles and make money. I have no home, no parents, but luckily I am accommodated by a Good Samaritan in a shack,? he explained.
Gideon Serero, a 16-year-old learner, said he has been living on his own ever since his unemployed parents left Keetmanshoop to live in the northern parts of the country a few years ago.
He also has no choice but to collect bottles from the dumpsite so that he can buy food.
?I attend school at the Keetmanshoop Junior Secondary School, and my uncle pays for my school fees. So, this is just for me to be able to buy food and clothes. In a month, I make up to N.dollars 300 from the bottles,? Serero said.
The dumpsite is a harsh, stinking environment, and competition for bottles is high and fierce among the ?miners?, as they often refer to themselves.
Children, some as young as three-years-old, could be seen at the dumpsite, nibbling on rotten food, while others even took the risk of jumping on a municipal dumping truck passing by slowly and ready to discard a load of rubbish.
Some grown-ups tried to stop the children from making these risky manoeuvres, but their cries were swiftly muffled as everyone noisily rushed to inspect the fresh deliveries, trying to fish out bottles or anything even remotely consumable.
?We are trying to make a living by selling bottles because we are unemployed, and do not want to steal. The government does not give us jobs, we have been coming here for five years now,? said Ambros Cloete as he hurriedly gathered beer cans and quickly filled his bag.
He lamented the fact that no one seems to listen to their pleas as they see no reaction from the government and the private sector, despite the fact that the media has highlighted their problems extensively.
?You guys always come here to interview us and put us in the newspapers, but we get no support. So, what?s the use?? Cloete asked rhetorically.
Meanwhile, Samuel Matroos complained about the price of the empty bottles that they are selling, saying it is very low when compared to how much effort they put into collecting them.
According to him, a bag of crushed bottles weighing 1 000 kilogrammes is sold for N.dollars 30 only. Alternatively, the bottles can be weighed and sold for 15 cents a kilogramme.
?At least they should buy the big bag for N.dollars 60, and when they weigh the bottles, one kilogramme must be N.dollars one so that we can at least make money like them.
I am sure they make a lot of money from our bottles those companies,? Matroos said while chewing on a piece of burnt bread.
The ?miners? said they mostly sell their bottles to the Du Toit Recycling company in Keetmanshoop.
Nampa observed over 50 people who were busy scratching for materials and food at the dumpsite. Some of them had pots on fires, cooking spoiled meat which they had obtained from the rubbish.