Often forgotten waste workers given recognition by City of Tshwane

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Workers’ Day is observed annually in South Africa to celebrate workers’ rights and acknowledge the role trade unions and workers’ organisations played in the struggle against apartheid.

Ahead of Workers’ Day on Wednesday, the City of Tshwane has recognised its sanitation workers who play a vital role in safeguarding hygiene and cleanliness. This demanding work often takes a toll on workers’ physical and mental well-being. Tshwane Environment MMC, Ziyanda Zwane, highlights why sanitation workers should be celebrated.

“It is of crucial importance that we recognise the work that is done by waste workers because each one of them [up to] management has a significant role to play because we can’t have a day without a refuse collection in the city. That would be like inviting your diseases, that would be like having an untidy space one would not like to have. So, it is of crucial importance that we celebrate each and every one of them because it’s a chain of life from the picking, from the litter pickers up until the dumping site.”

The strenuous physical labour, exposure to hazardous materials and long working hours can lead to health complications. Koena Mabokela, a waste collector in Tshwane, says he loves his job but it can be challenging.

“I love the job because I can support my family and we can also make sure that we keep our city clean so that they can stay in a safe place. The challenges we face include being run over by cars especially when there are dogs in the neighbourhood [we are] working in.”

Residents pleased with the work 

Tshwane residents voice their opinion on the role of waste collectors.

“The work that they are doing is very important, it just needs [a] proper administration. And if you look at Hatfield, it is clean, but some other places are not clean. In the City of Pretoria, I think they need more effort to make it cleaner than the way it is, but they are doing a very good thing.”

Another resident says, “What I can say is that they are doing a very good job in terms of our streets, you can see that it is clean just because of them. If you can try to check other places you can see that it’s very dirty, but we are in a clean place.”


Occupational Health and Safety expert, Andrew Chakanetsa, says employees should provide waste collectors with the right personal equipment because they are often exposed to different chemicals that might affect their health.

“Remember they pick up the waste bins on the trucks and some of them there are a lot of chemicals different chemicals they sometimes affect their wellbeing. Remember we’ve got biological hazards and health hazards and those are the hazards [chemicals] that affect them when they are doing refuse removal most of the time. They need to have correct protective equipment, that’s PPE, if they can get gloves, desk mask to protect the odour that’s coming from the waste.”


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