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For MmaKodima life is sale of cans

In the early hours of Sunday, a figure of an old woman makes its way to Dinaledi Bar in Letlhakeng.

For a while now the old woman has been a loyal patron of many bars in the village around these hours, albeit for a good reason.

Her singular objective is to finish her business before the morning rays intensify and head back home to continue other household chores.

“People are attaching a wrong assumption to the work I do here. Bare ke mosadimogolo yo o tsamayang a minolosa dithini tsa dibiri mo dibareng,” she explained as she settled down, but without any sign of remorse for what she considers a noble way of earning a living.

“I have been doing this since 2015 and I have no intentions of quitting,” explained Ms Sesame Kodima, a 64-year-old who has turned to collecting cans for a living.

Despite her chosen path to earning a living making fellow villagers look at her with scorn, she said she was content with it as she knows in her heart that it was not about what people think.

“Going around bars in the early hours of a Sunday downing leftovers from cans of beer is not what a responsible woman like me would do,” she said.

MmaKodima, as she is referred to around the village, has since 2015 found a potential goldmine in collecting cans for selling to the recycling industries.

The idea hit her way back in 2014 when she was still in the Village Public Health Committee.

She said then they used to collect empty cans as one of their duties, but then didn’t know what to do with them as they piled up, and they ended dumping then at the local dumping site.

“As fate would have it, one day as we went to the dumping site to dump a batch of cans I found a man named Thuso collecting them and out of curiosity I enquired what he was doing with all that trash, and he told me that he sells them to some companies that recycle them,” she said.

She said on hearing this they then decided as the committee that instead of throwing away the cans, they should also sell them and make a few coins.

MmaKodima said that on learning of their idea, one environmental health officer told them that indeed selling cans could bring a lot of profit and he assured them of his office’s assistance through the provision of transport.

She, however, said that because of their numbers, the profit was not that appealing as they had to share it, and said this led to them quitting. “The following year the committee ran its term of office and because I believed in the idea, I decided to go it alone,” she said.

She said she then started going around bars in the village, especially on weekends until she had a mountain of cans at her home.

“I then contacted Collect-a-Can and they informed me of their procedure.

Their practice is that your can either sell cans to them as they are, or you can compact them into a brick and sell as a block.

I later discovered that selling a brick was more rewarding so I hired their compacting machine to make such bricks.

She said the machine was hired for P200, and that one has to foot the bill for transporting it to and fro.

“But I can assure you that if you have collected enough cans the costs of renting and transporting the machine are not that denting to the final profit,” she flicks a smile.

And like a typical ordinary folk, MmaKodima would not reveal how much she reaped in her last sales, only that the amount was mouth-watering.

“Madi nne a tsamaya ha nne a tsamaya teng,” she stated with a coy smile, “mme nne ke tshutshuma ngwanaka,” she only revealed that much, but the sudden brightening of her face revealed she was richly rewarded.

She also revealed that the profits boosted her morale and encouraged her to take the task even more seriously.

She also revealed that sometimes she collected quart bottles for resale as well, but was however, adamant that the real money was in the cans.

MmaKodima said that in Letlhakeng there were reliable bars such as Dinaledi and Six Hundred at which she could always be assured to find tons of cans during the weekend, but said there was also need to venture outside to collect at neighbouring villages.

“The challenge I have with outside villages is transport, but am sure I would collect loads of cans at villages such as Ditshegwane and Takatokwane as well because I am the only one in the area doing such a thing so there is no competition,” she said.

She said at the moment she has slowed down a bit in collecting the cans as she was still busy at the ploughing fields.

MmaKodima also said that she could not seek the initially promised transport offer at the Department of Environmental Health because it was promised to them as a group and not an individual in business.

She, however, said that the office remains supportive especially on an advisory role.

MmaKodima said that she has realised that the best time to collect the cans was Sunday morning after they had accumulated from all the merry drinking of the weekend.

“There is no such thing as a month end for the guzzlers, every weekend whether its mid-month or not one is sure to find a lot of cans.

The dumping site has also been helpful as all the bars dump their cans there,” she said.

It is common to spot MmaKodima busy in solitude, and she said the reason was that almost all her children were grown-ups and had gone to look for jobs.

She said currently she stays with her grandchildren, but would not want them anywhere near bars as they were still school going.

With a few government initiatives to support start-up businesses, has she ever tried one of them?

“Yes, I have tried the poverty eradication office to help me buy the compacting machine, but they said its price was beyond their threshold.

I then checked the S&CD office and they said they would check whether my business idea was within the categories they fund, so am still awaiting their response,” she said.

In the meanwhile, the mother of six said she would resort to hiring the Collect-a-Can machine as has been the case.

She said so far no one in the village has shown any interest in partnering with her, although she said she would welcome the idea as it would ease her job and help share the costs.

She said that the morale to pursue her business idea further was boosted by the fact that every time she drops her bricks of cans at Gaborone, she sees many new faces, especially women and some from as far away as Ghanzi and Kang who have also come to sell their bricks.

She said this somehow took the shame off her.

She said that the problem with people was that they were lazy and only wanted quick money.

“There used to be many people in Letlhakeng that collected cans to sell, but all of them have since quit just because of laziness,” she said.

MmaKodima also said collecting cans was also good in that it helped keep the environment clean.

Despite all the laziness around her, MmaKodima is till adamant that for her, ‘life is a can.’Ends

Source : BOPA

Author : Olekantse Sennamose

Location : LETLHAKENG

Event : collecting cans

Date : Sep 11 Mon,2017

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