They’re a cohort of 50,000 workers who want to move from being coronavirus victims to coronavirus fighters.
Waste-pickers, cleaners, and ride-hailing service drivers in Johannesburg, whose incomes have dried up during the nationwide lockdown, are being trained in new ways of making a living so they can get back to work.
The project is the brainchild of businessmen Brad Fisher and Andile Ramaphosa, son of President Cyril Ramaphosa, who own SDI (Supplier Development Initiatives), a company that introduces micro-suppliers to larger companies.
My brother died so I look after his six children, then I have three of my own children and my wife to worry about.
With their new programme, SDI Force, they are gathering donations for personal protective equipment (PPE) and clothing to enable the micro-suppliers to do their bit to combat the virus and earn a living in the process.
Already involved are cleaning company Sweepsouth, ride-hailing service Bolt, waste recycling company Wastepreneurs, brand activators Tradeways, logistics company Loadit, survey and data capturing company Aweh and appliance service company Easyfix, which together represent about 50,000 workers in Johannesburg. The plan is to roll out the system in other cities.
Said Fisher: “The idea is to repurpose these people so they can work. An example is the Bolt drivers: one of the complaints from essential workers like lab technicians and nurses is that they have trouble getting to work because of restrictions on public transport. Each Bolt car has now been fitted with screens so passengers can travel without worrying about catching the virus. The drivers also know how to sanitise cars between travels, so they are now able to work.
“And the ‘Sweep Stars’, the ladies who work at Sweepsouth who usually clean homes, will be trained to sanitise offices” in the face of domestic contracts drying up.
Ronald Sibeko works at Loadit, which connects drivers who own trucks with those needing their services. The lockdown almost wiped out his income.
“I have a big family to look out for. My brother died so I look after his six children, then I have three of my own children and my wife to worry about. So now, with no work, I was facing big trouble,” said Sibeko.
Work is slow, but after he received training from SDI Force in how to safely deliver food, he helps deliver tons of food parcels.