Refilwe Mofokeng, a UKZN student studying towards a PhD in Marine Biology, responded to the recent flash floods that occurred in Durban and other parts of KwaZulu-Natal over the Easter Weekend by organising a clean-up at the Durban Harbour.
This clean-up was driven by the Refilwe Matlotlo Foundation, a non-profit organisation (NPO) that was formed by Mofokeng in 2016 to highlight the importance of conserving marine life.
Around 80 volunteers, made up of students and members of the public, gathered on Saturday morning 27 April at Wilson’s Wharf, Durban Harbour. Wearing protective gloves, they went straight to work; collecting the waste into plastic bags provided by Plastics SA.
As the co-ordinator, Mofokeng was hands-on, organising everything from the sunscreen to the refreshments. ‘It broke my heart to boast about how clean our ocean is, only to come back and find it in this state,’ said Mofokeng who recently took part in the Commonwealth fellowship for marine pollution in London. She noted her excitement with regards to the turnout.
Coming from an ecotoxicology background, Mofokeng urged the public to be more aware of the harmful effects of plastics on marine life. ‘In the future, I would like to take this issue of plastics and make it more sustainable, by creating jobs (in South Africa).’
She thanked sponsors of the event, namely the Royal Natal Yacht Club and Wildlands who provided support as well as MICA and John Dory’s who donated rakes and provided food for the volunteers respectively.
The litter collected was divided into different waste packages, with the plastic being taken in for recycling.
Mofokeng urged everyone to do their bit to stop pollution, ‘Once you see a plastic bottle or a tin can in the water, you realise that you could have put it there, as someone who didn’t recycle it.’
Words: Hlengiwe Precious Khwela
Photographs: Itumeleng Masa