Mlungisi hits pay­dirt


The Citizen (Gauteng) - - NEWS - Em­mett McConnell news@cit­i­

Pro­gramme gives col­lec­tors of re­cy­clables hope and a sense of dig­nity.

You have seen them around. They are out ev­ery day, usu­ally by the crack of dawn. They wear jump­suits, re­flec­tive vests, or even plain street clothes, but are most eas­ily recog­nised by the cart full of some­one else’s re­cy­clables drag­ging be­hind them.

Mlungisi Mav­im­bela is one of these col­lec­tors, but there is some­thing dif­fer­ent about him. You’d recog­nise him eas­ily around Tem­bisa, where he works. His smile and gre­gar­i­ous na­ture are in­fec­tious. Any­one lucky enough to cross his path will cer­tainly leave with a smile.

Along with sev­eral other en­trepreneurs, Mlungisi op­er­ates out of the Tem­bisa Self Help Cen­tre, a com­mu­nity cen­tre that is run by, and sup­ports, those with dis­abil­i­ties with ev­ery­thing from su­per­vi­sion to med­i­ca­tion and nu­tri­tion.

The cen­tre pro­vides em­ploy­ment to those with dis­abil­i­ties who might oth­er­wise be un­able to hold a job. Peo­ple like Mlungisi.

It op­er­ates as one of 45 buy­back cen­tres for the re­cy­cling firm Mpact, who pays these cen­tres and col­lec­tors for the re­cy­clable ma­te­rial they pro­vide.

Mlungisi suf­fers from a men­tal dis­abil­ity, which makes it dif­fi­cult for him to speak and com­mu­ni­cate prop­erly.

It was a chal­lenge for Mlungisi to find and hold a job in the past, but cur­rently, he is do­ing just fine.

“We al­low ben­e­fi­cia­ries to do projects to help them­selves, such as re­cy­cling,” says Calvin Stemele, man­ager of the cen­tre.

Stemele and the cen­tre pro­vide 70 other ben­e­fi­cia­ries like Mlungisi with the sup­port they need. Since his ar­rival in 2014, the cen­tre has be­come a refuge for many in the Tem­bisa neigh­bour­hood.

“We are per­ceived as a sec­ond home to many ben­e­fi­cia­ries,” Stemele says. “They feel bad about the week­end and no work. They en­joy be­ing here.” Mlungisi cer­tainly en­joys it. In fact, he works week­ends as well. For him it isn’t a bur­den. It isn’t a daily slog where 5pm means a respite from work and a chance to re­lax, be­fore start­ing it all over again. He rel­ishes the chance to be an en­tre­pre­neur, and uses his earn­ings to sup­port both him­self and his grand­mother, with whom he lives.

“He wants to find him­self here ev­ery day,” says Stemele. “He does not un­der­stand tak­ing leave.”

Ev­ery morn­ing since 2013, Mlungisi wakes up at 5am and be­gins his route. He works con­stantly, all with that in­fec­tious smile and at­ti­tude.

In that time, he has be­come a sta­ple of the com­mu­nity, a key fig­ure that ev­ery­one recog­nises.

It doesn’t hurt that he cleans up the city in the mean­time, one bot­tle, can and piece of pa­per at a time. –

Pic­tures: Nigel Sibanda

ADDING TO THE LOAD. Mlungisi Mav­im­bela with card­board boxes and a can to add to his load of re­cy­lables.

WORKAHOLIC. Mlungisi Mav­im­bela’s trol­ley that he uses to col­lect re­cy­lables at Esang­weni in Tem­bisa.

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