22 March 2018

South Africa: Waste Picker Killed After Getting Caught in Trash Compactor

A waste picker was killed when she became caught in a trash compactor vehicle at the New England landfill site in Pietermaritzburg.

Nswaki Mahlakwane died on the scene on Wednesday, March 14, according to a GroundUp report.

Due to a strike at the morgue, her body was only collected hours later, at about 22:00, says her younger brother.

Mloyi Mahlakwane, said: "I waited from 09:00 for the morgue van to collect her body. Other [landfill] site employees helped me to build a shack. I had to protect her body from the heat.

"In the afternoon, it started to rain. I was still standing, waiting for help. The morgue van arrived about 22:00. It was the worst experience ever. She was my older sister. Seeing her helpless body lying on the dump for hours tarnished me. I could not leave her."

Sweet person

Nswaki, of Lesotho, was 56 years old. She had been working as a waste picker on the landfill site since 2015. She lived in Swapo informal settlement.

"Both of us were waste pickers. We walked together to work. We collected cupboards, bottles and plastic containers," her brother said.

"Every month we would go and sell to companies in town. It was not much, but we paid rent and bought food. We were able to make R1 000, depending on how much waste we collected. We sold our items once every month."

Delani Mndaweni, who lived with Nswaki, described her as a sweet person.

"She was very cautious around the compactor. Some waste pickers would jump on the compactor. She never did that. I don't understand how she was killed by this thing. The driver must answer for how this happened. The Nswaki I know would not even get close to the compactor. She was scared of it," said Mndaweni.

Mloyi said his sister's body would be transported to Lesotho on Friday.

"A driver from Lesotho wanted R9 000 or a cow. I have managed to get a driver who asked for R3 000," Mloyi said.

Msunduzi municipality spokesperson Thobeka Mafumbatha said Mahlakwane was accidentally knocked over.

"The matter was reported to SAPS and emergency services. The operator, as well as other waste pickers, were attended to. They received counselling," said Mafumbatha.

Pietermaritzburg police communication officer Mthokozisi Ngobese said an inquest has been opened.

Colonel Thulani Zwane added that a case of culpable homicide was under investigation at Alexandra police station.

Source: GroundUp

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