It’s midday on Friday, 4 June. Tawanda Chipfuyo sits on two bricks while crushing empty soda cans for recycling before he trolleys the recyclables to a scrapyard some kilometres from Louis Trichardt’s central business district (CBD).
The skip bin area near Shoprite, in the Louis Trichardt CBD, is the place where he usually keeps his collection of recyclables before taking it to his home for storage. He also scavenges through garbage bins for empty beer bottles to sell.
This is how 51-year-old Chipfuyo from Zimbabwe has been earning a living since 2002. During the cold winter season, though, business is very slow compared to summer. “Most people prefer to drink coffee or tea in the wintertime, instead of cold drinks, and as a result, my business drops,” he said.
In the summer he needs a week to collect 120kg of empty soda cans, whereas, in the winter, this takes considerably longer.
“I wake up every morning at around 05:00 and start to collect empty beer bottles and cans at two nightclubs in town. Fortunately, I was offered a room at one of the nightclubs, so that I regularly clean the surrounding area. This makes it easier for me to collect the recyclables quickly before anyone else gets to them,” said Chipfuyo.
When asked how he had ended up in South Africa, Chipfuyo replied: “Back home I struggled to make ends meet. My parents died while I was still young. I dropped out of school when I was in the seventh grade.
“No-one was prepared to pay for my education, so, in 1991 I decided to follow my brother, who was already in the country [South Africa]. Unfortunately, when I got here, I never met up with my brother. I ended up working and staying on farms outside Louis Trichardt,” he said.
One day, in 2002, he walked to Louis Trichardt’s dumping area in the hope that someone might pick him up for a job, but that never happened. Instead, he came up with the idea to start his own recycling business.
Although Chipfuyo has been in the country for a long time now, he often travels back home to visit his family. The recycling business, to him, is an honest way of living. “I want to encourage the Zimbabwean youth to look out for honest job opportunities in South Africa and desist from criminal activities,” he said.
Chipfuyo is saving up for when he returns to Zimbabwe for good someday. “I am sure that, in three years’ time, I should be on my way back to my home country again. The money I am saving now will come in handy then,” he said.