Imposing fines on litterbugs is a short sighted intervention

The government’s intentions to fine local authorities up to US$5 000 for failure to collect garbage and individuals up to US$500 for throwing litter on the streets is ill-advised and lacks the collective support of the citizens.

While society operates on the basis of laws, regulations, customs and other cultural practices, putting restrictive laws on the citizens and local authorities without addressing the institutional performance of public institutions is short-sighted and unsustainable in the medium to long-term.

The real issue that requires urgent solutions is to provide an efficient and effective waste management service before thinking of punishing people.

 Once the local authorities have a functional refuse collection service, there would be justification to punish litterbugs.

In a draft statutory instrument, the government has proposed to impose fines not exceeding level 8 or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding six months or to both such a fine and such imprisonment.

The proposed penalties are too stiff to be transparently enforced. With the high levels of corruption by the municipal and state police, individual officers will pocket huge amounts of money in bribes.

A fine in the region of US$30 is most likely to be paid.

More revenues generated from littering should go towards purchase of more bins and equipment.

Residents have for a long time raised concerns about the dismal failure by the council to collect garbage owing to shortage of equipment, fuel and refuse compactors.

 This has exposed residents to heaps of uncollected garbage, contaminating the environment and causing disease outbreaks.

Unfortunately, despite noting these concerns, the responsiveness of the Environment Management Agency and the City of Harare to the uncollected garbage leaves a lot to be desired.

Residents continue to be billed for refuse collection, but there is erratic refuse collection, with piles of uncollected garbage everywhere in Harare.

There is lack of transparency and accountability on the refuse collection funds.

The residents’ expectation is always that the little revenue collected is put to good use for the improvement of the waste management services.

The imposition of multiple taxes and punitive fines on the citizens will not resolve the critical issues of human behaviour and building strong united communities concerned about their environment.

Resorting to fining people without investing in building trust and confidence in public institutions shows that bureaucrats and policymakers have run short of ideas to address the waste management  challenges confronting local authorities.

Before making policies of this nature, the government’s bureaucracy needs to widely consult waste management experts so that the government’s policies adequately respond to the real needs of the people.

A responsible government has a duty and obligation to positively respond to the concerns of residents as soon as they are raised.

 Acting with contempt and arrogance only worsens the relationship between the government and its people.

 Therefore, when pegging fines, laws and regulations, the government should be informed by the collective will and conscience of the citizens, thus gaining the people’s trust and confidence.

In Harare, the government, through the Office of the President and Cabinet imposed an unwanted company to take control and manage the Pomona dumpsite, which is a ratepayers’ asset.

The City of Harare resolved to cancel the agreement with Geogenix BV but the government has insisted that the project should continue because it was granted national project status.

 Sadly, the funds meant for Harare City Council under Section 301(3) of the constitution, being the city’s allocation of the devolution funds, are allegedly being paid to Geo Pomona Waste Management (Pvt) Limited as payments for the delivery of garbage to Pomona dumpsite at US$40 per tonne, depriving the City of Harare of revenues for its priority projects. - Harare Residents Trust

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