City of Joburg fails in attempt to evict waste pickers’ initiative

The WastePreneurs. Picture: wastepreneurs.co.za

A project which helps 110 people earn a living from recycling has won the first salvo in a legal battle against the City of Johannesburg property company.

Non-profit organisation WastePreneurs has won an interdict preventing them from being evicted from waste sorting premises on property leased to the Pirates Club in Greenside.

The battle is not over for WastePreneurs – which helps some of Johannesburg’s many waste pickers make money from recycling – as the interdict only allows them to stay until the matter is settled in court, but it is a significant victory.

Pirates Club was forced to send the initiative an eviction notice after the City of Johannesburg Property Company (JPC) – which leases the property to the popular sports club – threatened to terminate its lease if they didn’t send WastePreneurs packing.

Pirates Club manager Non Welsford said while she couldn’t speak on behalf of the club, she is personally happy that WastePreneurs are allowed to stay for now.

“It’s a project I think is fantastic, you’re uplifting people,” she said.

“I can’t officially speak for Pirates, but I’m happy for them to be here if the council is,” she added.

She says while the City told them to evict the initiative under a clause in the contract that prevents subletting, the club hadn’t received any money from WastePreneurs, and they therefore saw their granting of permission for the initiative to use the waste-sorting premises as involvement in a community project rather than subletting.

The sports club shares a wall with the waste sorting facility, which falls under the property they lease, but it has a separate entrance. Pikitup also uses part of the waste-sorting premises.

Welsford said the City of Johannesburg is likely acting on complaints from residents, who oppose the waste-picking initiative, but she expressed the view that the waste pickers are just trying to get by, and would not go away if WastePreneurs was evicted.

“Without WastePreneurs, they’ll start sorting in the park again, it doesn’t make sense,” she said.

“WastePreneurs have invested quite a lot of money to keep waste pickers off the road – they now use the pavements instead – and out of the parks, and spent about R200,000 I believe. They are hoping to make it a pilot project which can be rolled out in other places,” she said.

She added that she feels the waste-sorting premises is far enough away from private properties. “That’s the reality – it doesn’t affect anyone next door”.

Pirates club chairperson Lloyd Hanson sent a statement from the club’s stakeholders which suggests they agree with Welsford.

“The day before the Boks lifted the Webb Ellis trophy the Club also received news in the form of an interim interdict ruling from the Johannesburg High Court.

READ MORE: City of Joburg terminates Pirates Club’s lease agreement

“This urgent interdict was brought to the court by a group of wastepreneurs whose livelihoods are threatened by moves to have the recycling drop-off at Pirates Club shut down.

“Although pressured by our landlords, Johannesburg Property Company (JPC), and the City of Johannesburg (CoJ) into serving a 60 day eviction notice to Wastepreneurs, the Club remains of the view that the Wastepreneurs project is of great benefit to individual wastepreneurs, waste management and the community,” the statement says.

WastePreneurs has released a statement hailing their victory “in the first step against eviction attempts”.

“It’s a small victory, but an important one in securing the future for an initiative that improves the lives of so many people. The JPC forced the Pirates’ Club to evict the WastePreneurs in order to maintain their lease agreement with the City.

“This latest ruling, thanks to the stellar pro bono work by Attorneys Sim and Botsi, allows WastePreneurs to keep operating at their current premises in Greenside – an incredibly important outcome for the 110 WastePreneurs who earn their livelihood at the site.

“The legality of WastePreneurs has never been in question. The court case, in this instance, refers to whether Pirates may, or may not, under the terms of their lease accommodate the WastePreneurs.

“Waste pickers and their trolleys are a familiar sight on the streets of Johannesburg. Though they do face some critique from residents, most people don’t realise the public service the waste pickers render by ensuring a vast amount of Johannesburg’s recyclable waste is kept out of land fills and transported to recycling depots, daily.

“The aim of the WastePreneurs initiative was to help formalize the waste picking system and to aid some of the poorest (and undeniably hard-working) people in our society to earn a livelihood for themselves and their families.

“The WastePreneurs pilot operates from a depot on the premises of Pirates Sports Club in Greenside.

“They collect recyclable waste from various suburbs in northern Johannesburg and transport it to the Pirates WastePreneurs depot, where it is sorted, weighed and sold to recycling businesses.

“Most Joburg waste pickers have to transport their recyclables to a depot in Newtown, or alternatively, Alexandra. Due to the distances they have to travel, most only manage one trip per day which would earn them R70 to R80.

“The 110 WastePreneurs, on the other hand, only have to travel to Greenside from the nearby northern suburbs. By virtue of these shorter trips they can make up to four trips a day which means they can earn substantially more – between R280 and R320 per day.

Pirates, meanwhile, hopes the matter will be solved amicably and that the City’s attempted cancellation of their lease is overturned.

Questions sent to JPC spokesperson Zanele Mamba about what WastePreneur described as their “relentless efforts” to shut the initiative down, as well as messages and calls following up on the questions, were ignored at the time of goint to print.

The City of Joburg declined to answer questions, instead referring The Citizen to the JPC.

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