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Unemployed young men during covid-19 dig for scrap in Benoni

OOn the outskirts of Benoni is a big metal dump where trucks spill refuse from metal firms. Much as the refuse is no longer of use in the metal firms, some people will do anything to get their hands on the refuse to select metal pieces and sell to scrape yards.

From as early as 6 am a group of unemployed youths start digging for scrap metal. They come from different places to begin work early just like people who work in formal jobs. Those who live in nearby places walk to and from the dump every day. Others commute from distant places. They will not waste any time because the sooner they can gather some metal the better their chances of getting some money to look after their families.

The work does not at all look easy, but the young men say they would rather endure than stay broke.

Those working here say they struggled to find work until they started dealing in scrape metal.

28-year-old Sipho Mkwanazi is one of the young men who collects scrape. He has been coming to the dump for a year. He walks everyday from a nearby squatter camp where he lives. He worked in a supermarket in town some five years ago packing food in shelves. When his contract came to an end, he was not able to find another job. He joined other young men who came to the dump on a part time basis. However, he discovered that he could at least make enough money to buy food at home. Eventually he decided to go there daily. He looks after his wife and two children with the money he makes selling scrape metal.

“With a family its never easy to just sit around and do nothing, selling scrape helps me put food on the table,” he says.

Mkwanazi has a certificate in merchandising, much as he has tried to find work nothing has come of it. He was even conned out of money by people who promised to get him a job.

“I gave someone a whole R1000. They claimed to be agents who find jobs for people. Instead they ran off with my money and l never saw them again,” says Mkwanazi.

When he is not working, he tries to look for work however he knows that if he is able to sell scrape he can get by until something better comes along.

“As long as my family can have food to eat then l am also happy.”

Just like all the other young men who work collecting scrape he hopes that life will change for the better..

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