While few people, part- icularly young people, would consider cleaning rubbish bins for a living, Khayelitsha youngster, Buhle Sithela, is doing just that, and is proud of his job.
Most importantly, he does his job for the benefit of his community by creating employment opportunities for his peers and a healthy living environment for the people of Harare.
And he intends expanding his business beyond the area and by targeting government departments and various businesses operating in the community.
The 21-year-old has teamed up with five of his peers to run what could turn out to be one of Khayelitsha’s top initiatives spearheaded by the youth.
Having started in June last year, with five bins, using just a liquid dishwasher and Madubula disinfectant, they are now cleaning 38 bins with high quality chemicals. Each house pays them R50 a month. The group hopes to reach 200 households in the coming months and possibly bring more young people on board. “The more bins we get, the more money we will get and the more lives we will improve,” he said.
In an interview with Vukani, Buhle, who dropped out during the second year of his events management studies at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT), due to financial difficulties, said the idea to clean bins occurred to him last year when he realised that he had a lot of time on Fridays, the day the municipality removed rubbish from the neighbourhood.
He shared his idea with his friend, Sivuyile Gwabe, who supported him.
With no capital to start the business, he sacrificed the R100 pocket money he had received from his mother to buy the dishwasher and the disinfectant. Since then, the initiative has seen steady growth and from the small amount they collect every month, they are now able to sustain themselves.
Most importantly, Buhle says, he is able to save some of the money towards his dream of starting a local cinema which he plans to have up and running in September. The cinema would provide movie screenings for schools, churches and the entire community of Khayelitsha. He hopes to get support from one of the country’s leading cinema companies.
“There is no cinema in Khayelitsha. I want to create a situation where people can watch movies in their areas without going to town,” said Buhle.
He has already begun putting some of the material together. As a student he volunteered for numerous companies, including Short and Sweet, which organises short film screenings in the city’s more upmarket areas. “I wanted to do the same in Khayelitsha. I thought through the bin money I could raise funds to start the cinema,” he said.
However, his focus now firmly remains on his bin cleaning business. “My community has embraced my business,” he said.
He attributes the support to the fact that the business is run by youngsters who chose to better their lives by earning a genuine income instead of committing crime.
“We don’t have means to buy a car. Our aim is to buy bicycles so that we can travel far,” he said. “Starting this business is a real benefit to all of us.”
Sivuyile hailed the initiative, urging other young people to rise up and act.
“Young people must take action and stop using drugs and being involved in crime,” he said.
He added that the project had made a big difference in his life and he was happy with the little money he received.
“Our service is only getting better. The equipment has also improved a lot from when we started,” he said and called on more residents to support the project.
On a monthly basis, the youngsters buy a range of chemicals that kill germs and ensure the bins of their clients are kept clean and fresh. Each bin has a sticker to differentiate it from the rest of the bins.
When Vukani arrived to meet with the group on Friday June 24, they were waiting for the pick up truck to collect the refuse so they could start working.
“We want to start with this as early as possible, but this is now delaying us,” he said.
Buhle also hopes to use some of the money he makes to go back to school and complete his studies one day.