Stories of Social Justice In Action
“Who are essential workers?
The fight for informal waste reclaimers”
A Case Study
It is an ongoing battle that is now on appeal to the Constitutional Court. A battle that started when the lock down list of essential workers was designated under regulations set by Government under an act of Parliament. While informal waste re-claimers play a critical role in the collection and recycling of a large part of the country’s waste, they were missing from the list.
LHR along with other public legal interest groups quickly came to their defence. Representing five of the waste recyclers around the city of Pretoria, challenged the law and argued they play a critical role as essential service providers when “waste and refuse removal” is considered essential.
“While we have engaged with both local and national government on this issue, informal reclaimers have been explicitly left out of the definition of “essential service providers” in the lockdown regulations”, said Thandeka Chauke, a lawyer at LHR. “The impact of this omission on our clients is severe, as they are prohibited by the police and SANDF from leaving their homes, and have no ability to feed their families, purchase medicine, or access health services”.
While the High Court of Pretoria dismissed the case, the appeal is now awaiting adjudication at Constitutional Court. While the decision is pending, the impact of this high level advocacy has made sure that under the country’s new phase 4 they will be included in those able to work, providing a lifeline for thousands of people and making sure that waste is recycled, leaving the country cleaner.