Local Politics

South Africa: The Women On the Side of the Road – Surviving On Scrap Metal and R350 a Month

In a desperate battle to survive, groups of elderly women are sleeping on the side of the N2 highway for up to a week at a time, guarding the scrap metal they have collected while they wait for a lift to Durban so that they can sell it.

Outside the village of Qumbu in the Eastern Cape, trucks headed to KwaZulu-Natal will meet groups of women at the side of the road to pick up the scrap metal they have collected. The drivers take the women to Durban where they try to make a little cash selling the metal.

Expensive transport and high unemployment rates have driven these rural women to risk their lives sleeping alongside the N2 between Mthatha and Qumbu, waiting for a ride.

The Eastern Cape has the highest unemployment rate in the country at 47%, and an expanded unemployment rate of 53%.

While waiting for a ride to come along, and to protect their precious recyclables, they often sleep on the side of the road for as long as a week. When it rains at night, they cover themselves with plastic sheets and in the morning they use tin cans to boil water and to wash….

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