“God always puts something out for us” says scrap collector

Even shack fires can be an opportunity

By Peter Luhanga

22 February 2021

Photo of four men

Bonteheuwel residents Jeffrey Jagers, Jason Williams, Taswill Snyman and Faizel Smith have loaded their bakkie in Dunoon with old household items to sell to scrapyards. Photo: Peter Luhanga

Driving an old rickety bakkie, which they start by hot wiring the wires dangling from underneath the steering wheel, four Bonteheuwel residents crisscross Cape Town in search of trash to sell at scrap yards.

They set out every morning, following their gut instinct when deciding which route to take.

Faizel Smith was 14 years old when he started scavenging to survive. He is now 43, and the father of two. Smith says he enjoys the wide variety of people he meets when hunting scrap.

In Ekuphumuleni informal settlement, behind a municipal hall in Dunoon, the aftermath of a devastating fire that burnt 30 shacks to the ground on 9 February, is a source of scrap. Smith and his three friends wait to collect charred household items, paying the fire victims R50 for a burnt out fridge or R10 for a stove.

On a good day, they can make R1,000, which they split four ways after paying for hire of the bakkie (R400) and its fuel. The owner of the bakkie has helped them with cash to use for purchasing scrap.

Taswill Snyman, 28, dropped out of school as a child to start earning by scavenging. He now has a child aged two.

“Some people will give you the stuff, some will sell. In other areas they chase us and want to beat us. I can’t say it’s nice or it’s bad but we don’t have a choice,” he says.

“Everyday it’s a different story on the street. When I see the bakkie getting full and we get R200 or R100 [each] that is a good day,” he says.

“God always puts something out for us. Maybe small, maybe big, but there is always something out there for us,” says Snyman.