Money in muck

Money in muck

MASERU – Hello treasure! You could say this is how some people making a living from a dumpsite in Maseru greet your trash bags.
At Tšosane landfill, Maseru’s only legal dumpsite, dozens of people rummage through trash in hopes of salvaging reusable and recyclable items.
At most times, there are no less than 200 people at the dumpsite hoping to turn trash into cash.
Elderly ’Malefu Motloang is one of them. The 70-year-old has been in the business for over 20 years.
Ever since the dumpsite became legalised as a landfill for the Maseru district, this has been her only source of income to put food on the table for her 10 children.
Daily, Motloang and her husband trudge to the dumping site from their village nearby.
Everyday in the morning they separate plastics from metal, paper and iron which they sell to recycling companies on the site.
They are called waste harvesters.
Motloang’s husband worked in South Africa on construction sites but joined his wife in the trade when he lost his job two years ago.

In a good week Motloang gets M1 000 from selling recyclables.
She says she has been able to take care of her family in the most trying times of her life through earnings from the dumpsite business.
She says she put her last born daughter, now 30, through to primary school to tertiary education at the Centre for Accounting Studies with money from waste collection.
“All of this waste that people throw away is what has kept me and my family going,” Motloang says, with a smile.
“I have built myself a house and so have many other people that are working here,” she says.
And she isn’t about to change jobs. “I would never be any one’s house keeper when I know I can be my own boss with what people throw away.”
While local residents who fear for their health want the dumpsite to be urgently relocated to Tšoeneng in Rothe, Motloang and her workmates would be devastated if that were to happen.
“People who depend on the dumpsite will lose their jobs,” she says.
“The government will be killing us if it closes down this dumpsite. Our grandchildren are going to get involved in criminal activities because we would have lost our jobs,” she says.

Motloang says there are new faces joining them in the “dirty work” daily.
Younger people who have certificates in higher learning have found themselves working at the dumpsite due to lack of jobs.
“Unemployment is high and this has stopped being a work place for only us the poor, uneducated people. We have youngsters joining us on a daily basis because mouths need to be fed and families taken care of.”
’Matšepo Mosoang dropped out of the Lesotho Agricultural College after failing one module.
In an attempt to make ends meet, the 35-year old worked as a shopkeeper at a shop in Maseru but lost her job when the Lesotho Revenue Authority (LRA) closed the business down for not paying tax.
With three children to take care of Mosoang had little choice but to take to the dumpsite.
“I had only heard that there were people making money from the trash in this area and one day an elderly lady from my village told me it could change my life. It did help,” Mosoang says.
It has been three years of turning trash into money for her.

Rose Moremoholo & ’Mamakhooa Rapolaki


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