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THE ACTIONISTS

RIP Alex Water Warrior Sbusiso Malinga, you leave a massive legacy

RIP Alex Water Warrior Sbusiso Malinga, you leave a massive legacy
Sbusiso Malinga. (Photo: Thom Pierce, The Actionists)

These profiles of Sbusiso and his colleague Paul Maluleke commemorate the important contribution that Sbusiso made, through the story of the Alex Water Warriors.

Every Wednesday and Friday, Sbusiso Malinga would walk from his home in Alexandra Township to clean up the litter trap that sits across the Jukskei River and collects hundreds of polystyrene takeaway containers that have floated downstream over the previous days. The volume of waste that built up over only a few days was vast, making his work thankless, repetitive and unending. But as a passionate advocate for change in Alexandra, he kept going, unpaid, week in and week out. 

Sbusiso died from natural causes last week, on 18 July 2023, at 35 years old. 

In 2022, Paul Maluleke introduced Sbusiso to me as one of the most dedicated volunteers for the Alex Water Warriors. He was the first person I formally profiled for The Actionists. 

Today we are publishing the profiles of Sbusiso and his colleague Paul, together with a tribute from ARMOUR CEO Mark McClue, to commemorate the important contribution that Sbusiso made, through the story of the Alex Water Warriors. 

Paul Maluleke

As one of the founders of the Alex Water Warriors, Paul has built a team of volunteers who get together to clean up the Jukskei River which starts at Ellis Park and joins the Crocodile River outside Lanseria, flowing through the township of Alexandra on the outskirts of Johannesburg. 

The clean-up project is born out of passion and necessity. The level of pollution from discarded plastic has reached such high levels that it affects the health and livelihoods of most people living in the community. As a passionate advocate for bringing tourism back to Alexandra, Paul knows the importance of cleaning up the river while also passing on new values to the next generation.

Formed in 2017, the Water Warriors have grown in number and support. From an original team of four dedicated volunteers, there are now about 700, collecting about 1,000 bags of rubbish a week through their 10 teams working along different sections of the river. 

A loving character full of spirit, Sbu was proof that ‘unemployed’ does not mean unable, unskilled or unwilling.

They recently received a recycling station from Coca-Cola Beverages SA, launched on Mandela Day, in partnership with COJ, ARMOUR and Adreach’s WastePreneurs to provide the warriors with space for weighing and sorting recycling, as well as a buy-back centre to aid ongoing sustainability for them and the community.

“Sbusiso Richard Sgidi Malinga, Our Brother, son of the soul and the water. You left a legacy and you left us blessings. No words can appreciate you and the hero you were. Our Director, our litter trap expert and our Aquaman. 

Rest in peace, Bafo. Alexandra Water Warriors highly appreciate your leadership and the opportunities you created for so many. On behalf of Jukskei River” – Paul Maluleke

Paul Maluleke

Paul Maluleke. (Photo: Thom Pierce, The Actionists)

A Tribute to Sbusiso Malinga by Mark McClue

Sbusiso was without question a passionate, committed believer in the warrior programme and specifically instrumental in building and operating the Jukskei Park 2 litter trap with ARMOUR, Fresh and The Nanima Foundation. This led to installing the one at the Kyalami sportsgrounds further downstream on the Jukskei, with assistance from the FlSmidth mining group.

As a qualified tourism guide from GATHA (Greater Alexandra Tourism and Heritage Association), his dedication was founded on the understanding that if he can be part of making Alexandra and the river environment a better, more welcoming place, then tourists will come.

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And indeed they have, as visitors now arrive week after week to see the litter trap in action, with his lead in removing hundreds of bags of waste from the river at a time and always welcoming neighbouring areas around and downstream as we build the understanding of multiple sources and solutions.

A loving character full of spirit, Sbu was proof that “unemployed” does not mean unable, unskilled or unwilling.

Far from it; with polite interaction, as he waded across the river to attach a cable or demonstrate the workings of the litter trap while coordinating teams. Corporates, sponsors and colleagues were always surprised to hear he could also do this in fluent German!!

All he did emphasised that he was doing this as a way to attract tourists and create work opportunities for all.

I thank him for his role as a Water Warrior and an active citizen, recognising his part in being both the source and solution. Something we can all reflect on as we choose to either make a positive or negative impact downstream in all we do.

Thoughts go to the Alex Water Warriors team – may his inspiration and energy flow on as he rests in peace.

Mark McClue is the CEO and co-founder of ARMOUR.org.za providing “A Voice for Water” through encouraging Action for Responsible Management of Our Rivers with programmes such as the Water Warriors in different catchment areas.

The Actionists was launched in early 2023 by photographer Thom Pierce. It consists of on-the-ground problem solvers, community activists, climate campaigners and human rights defenders who don’t just talk but who take direct action. They’re the people you can go to when you don’t know where to turn; who won’t stop working for the change they want to see in the world. The Actionists is also a growing community of people who care about the future of South Africa.

Through a series of photographic stories, Pierce profiles a wide range of people around the country who are providing vital services, intuitive solutions and unrelenting activism.

Through the website, discussion forum and social media, the aim is to provide tangible ways for people to get involved. The intention is to inspire and inform, to challenge the idea that nothing is being done, to create a network of Actionists and to bring people who need help together with the people who can provide a solution. Nominate Actionists in your circle at www.theactionists.co.za or email [email protected]

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