The Portfolio Committee on Environment, Forestry and Fisheries has learnt with shock of the tragic death of Mr Simon Mbata, who was the national coordinator for the South African Waste Pickers Association.
A day before the tragic accident, Mr Mbata presented to the Portfolio Committee on Environment, Forestry and Fisheries on the informal sector within waste management.
Committee Chairperson Ms Faith Muthambi said Mr Mbata was a zero-waste champion representing the waste pickers. He was instrumental in assisting waste pickers to form cooperatives and ran awareness campaigns on the separation of waste in communities, so that those without jobs could find a means to support themselves.
As early as 2013, he was fighting for the protection of waste picker jobs, promoting recycling rather than incinerating waste. At that time, he said waste incineration will lead to people losing their jobs, as people working on dump sites provide a livelihood for families.
Mr Mbata saw waste pickers as essential services workers because of the impact of their work on the environment. He also identified business opportunities for the unemployed, such as the picking, transporting, sorting and recovery of waste materials, which assisted many poor communities.
Ms Muthambi praised Mr Mbata as a leader and a champion of the environment who will be sorely missed. His contribution to the environment will live on in the communities he has helped to organise into cooperatives. The committee sends their condolences to the family, friends and communities who have worked with Mr Mbata.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Republic of South Africa: The Parliament.