Residents from Cambridge in the Buffalo City Metropolitan Municipality in East London, supported by the Inyanda National Land Movement, are locked in an ongoing dispute with the local Solid Waste in Cambridge village regarding employing locals to work as waste pickers.
About 50 Cambridge residents, mainly youth, have been volunteering as waste pickers since July 2021. They volunteered as waste pickers because of the growing concerns about the environmental and health impacts of the accumulating rubbish. The waster pickers say that after they started volunteering, Solid Waste officials offered some of these volunteers employment, even going as far as inviting them for interviews and requesting personal information such as bank details and SARS tax numbers.
“The actions by the Solid Waste officials raised the expectations of the young volunteers that they would be employed. It was also viewed by the community as a positive step towards addressing unemployment problem in Cambridge” says Andile Mapisa, Secretary General of Inyanda National Land Movement. However, none of the volunteers who were approached about the work opportunities were employed. Officials are also not responding to queries about why the recruitment process was so abruptly terminated and the employment offers rescinded. “Given the unemployment crisis, the Inyanda National Movement cannot allow local government officials to continue to deny Cambridge residents available employment opportunities” added Mapisa.
On 21 July, about one year after the volunteer waste pickers first started, they held a march to the Cambridge Solid Waste offices. As part of the march, the volunteers submitted their grievances and gave officials the deadline of 5 August to respond. No response to these grievances has been received to date.
The Inyanda National Land Movement and waster pickers say that they were therefore left with no other option but to resort to a sit in on 12 August 2022 at the Solid Waste offices in Cambridge hoping that officials would engage an open manner.
The volunteer waste pickers say that they were then told that the matter would be addressed and be responded to in the following week. However, the waste pickers say that there has been no adequate response to date and instead they are being sent from pillar to post and are still left with no answers. Plans were underway for a public meeting in Cambridge at the end of August to prepare for possible further protest action.