Vosman in Emalahleni is an informal settlement area with Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) houses built for the community of Vosman. Most of the houses were constructed with no solid foundation. The area is close to multiple coal mining operations which are open cast and the more the blasting in the mines takes place, the more the slate from the ground shows up and cracks.

People who are 100m away from the mines are living in fear for their lives as their houses are cracking from bottom to the ceiling while the interior has also not been spared. Some of the windows are cracking and broken.  Their safety is now under threat as a result of the negative consequences of mining. The community is also not being consulted when an operation is taking place. All they want is the mines to fix the cracked houses as others have just constructed new houses and these are barely three years but are already showing signs of cracks.

Living in a community that is contaminated by mine waste radioactivity is not easy for the people of Thulani Snake park informal settlement in Soweto. People around the area are now making a living as waste pickers to survive. They do not have electricity so recycling helps them to get money to buy paraffin and food. It is really hard especially for women to wake up early in the morning and walk a distance pushing a trolley to get recycling items like tins, plastic bottles, and other recycling items. They say when they go to suburban areas they are humiliated by some residents and some call them derogatory names such as “bomalala pipes” while  security guards also chase them away.

Despite, the ill -treatment, they don’t get enough money from the items because the scrap yard does not pay much especially when the scale is small.

Waste picking has become their source of livelihood. Some of the waste pickers around the area are drug addicts, who use the returns from selling scrap to feed their hunger for drugs. Women waste pickers are now intimidated by these ‘nyaope’ boys and have expressed the need for the police to protect them.

The community has also called on the government to formulate policies that will ensure that they are recognized and stop the municipality from privatizing the recycling sector.

Nyaope or whoonga is a street drug that has allegedly come into widespread use in South Africa since 2010.