BY RICHARD MUPONDE
HARARE, renamed from the colonial Salisbury, in the early days of independence, was widely referred to as the Sunshine City owing to its squeaky-clean streets and orderly, smart and clean residential suburbs.
Harare’s cleanliness and orderliness echoed throughout Sadc, and undoubtedly contributed to “The Jewel of Africa” moniker accorded the country by statesmen like Tanzania’s former President, the late Julius Mwalimu Nyerere.
Sadly, the city has over the decades deteriorated to some stinky hellhole that nobody can be proud to be associated with.
Old timers get nolstalgic about the old Harare when today they come across huge mounds of garbage at street corners, minefields of potholes, total absence of street lighting and a literal invasion of pavements by poverty stricken vegetable and other vendors.
In the past the city fathers used to collect garbage every week which was a well-planned and monitored programme of servicing the suburbs where refuse trucks had a timetable for collecting garbage.
However, things have gone out of hand as garbage heaps grow at every street corner in the central business district.
Litter bugs go scot-free with no one to enforce by-laws against littering resulting in a health time bomb.
The influx of vendors in the central business district (CBD) has also exacerbated the problem as they dump garbage anywhere near their operating sites without care or worry.
Meanwhile council does not collect its movable bins placed at strategic points in the city making Harare an eyesore.
During the lockdown period council workers took advantage of the absence of people in the CBD and cleaned it up, but that has all come to naught as the situation has returned to original dirty settings.
A resident of Kuwadzana, Admire Mutengiwa, said the city council was letting residents down by not collecting garbage when every month it billed them for a once a week refuse collection.
“The way the council is operating is short-changing ratepayers. I think it is wise for them not to collect our money if they can’t collect the garbage. Heaps of garbage are piling on every open space in this suburb and around the whole city. Organisations such as Environment Management Agency (EMA) should fine the council heavily because it is the one driving residents to dump garbage everywhere,” he said.
Mutengiwa’s sentiments were echoed by Kelvin Pamire, from the same suburb, who said litter bugs should be arrested and the city council fined for polluting the city with uncollected garbage.
“Law enforcement should take its course and those littering the environment should be brought to book. Council shouldn’t be spared because it is the driving force behind all this mess,” Pamire said.
Precious Shumba, director for Harare Residents Trust (HRT), said refuse collection was virtually non-existent in Harare.
“Uncollected garbage continues to pile in open spaces, at shopping centres, street corners in other residential places and the Avenues area. Residents are charged for once a week refuse collection on their monthly bills. On the other hand, littering has also become a real menace in the communities. It’s partly attributable to lack of appreciation for the environment by the citizens. We have observed citizens throwing litter from vehicle windows on the streets, and people dumping garbage anywhere convenient to them,” Shumba said.
He said his organisation urged residents to put their uncollected garbage in sacks and other containers and place these at the nearest district offices of the City of Harare so that the city’s responsible departments collect the garbage when it becomes convenient to them.
“The citizens need to become vigilant and protect their environment against pollution by playing their part in safeguarding the environment. People littering the environment have to be educated on a wider scale,” Shumba said.
“As development partners, working with citizens and like-minded organisations, policymakers and government departments, there must be a systematic way to communicate the issue of maintaining a clean environment. That way we build citizens’ agency and reduce the littering that we currently witness in our communities. It’s a collective responsibility. Law enforcement should be preceded by massive awareness-raising.”
However, Harare City spokesperson Michael Chideme said they were facing a lot of challenges including fuel shortage that were militating against their efforts at garbage collection.
“We are facing challenges in buying fuel as we are collecting rates in local currency while fuel is being sold in forex. This has made it difficult for us to collect refuse in town.
The other issue is that we are facing periodic breakdowns of our ageing trucks which need replacement,” Chideme said.
Environment Management Authority spokesperson Amukela Sidange told NewsDay that EMA was in the process of applying for a court order to compel the local authority to properly manage the Pomona dumpsite pending construction of a standard sanitary landfill .
“The local authority is also sitting on several environment protection orders and tickets issued for poor solid waste management including non-collection of waste. Rampant littering continues to increase in the city of Harare — the lockdown period saw a cleaner CBD and a decrease in dumping of litter especially in residential areas as more people spent more time at home. The challenge, however, returned with the relaxation of lockdown regulations. This was exacerbated by the outbreak of fire at Pomona dumpsite in August leading to non-collection of waste for weeks hence accumulation of waste in the environment … to which EMA issued the local authority an order to extinguish the fire and prevent any further such incidents,” Sidange said.
She said EMA was now engaged in an awareness campaign to impress upon the residents the importance of sorting waste at the source to support recycling and reduce the amount of rubbish taken to dumpsites.
“Successful sorting at source initiatives have been implemented at Mabvuku, Francis and Belvedere Flats, with more residents being in the process of engagement. The thrust is to create a business model in solid waste management and make citizens see business opportunities in waste management thus making it sustainable,” Sidange added.
“Otherwise to reduce littering the agency is continuing on litter bug prosecution to complement efforts by the local authority on the same. According to section 83 of the Environment Management Act (Chapter 20:27) littering or dumping of waste is a punishable offence attracting fines or prison sentences or both fine and imprisonment.”
This article was first published by the Weekly Digest, an Alpha Media Holdings publication