A Harare without litter

Volunteers take a break from cleaning the streets of  Harare,.

Volunteers take a break from cleaning the streets of Harare.

A week ago I was in Harare, and I got into town around 6 am. I wanted to get an early bus to Bindura for a family event. I was really surprised to find the streets so clean and tidy.

Of course some dust was still to settle after what I learnt to be a daily occurrence (cleaning) courtesy of the City of Harare Waste Management Department.

Funny how I usually get into town around 11 am and the streets are already filled with litter. By lunch, it’s hard to find the few remaining clean spots.

Old splendour

I have always cried over the loss of Harare’s beauty. The demise of its Sunshine City status into some dump, unrecognizable to someone who left a decade ago.

Our city fathers have blamed their failure to keep the city clean on the economic hardships, as large volumes of waste are generated by people who flock into Harare day and night.

But then,  from whom does this dirt come? Is it not from us who just throw away litter everywhere, while when it piles up we look away in disgust?

Blame game

I have always blamed our city council for not doing enough to keep Harare clean but now I question if I am doing enough myself.

I have seen the cleaning ladies work, even though they sometimes go for months without pay.

They are doing their duties, and we the citizens are doing ours, throwing litter everywhere, and an extra duty of complaining why Harare is never clean.

Credit where it’s due

Looking back, it now strikes me that Town House has always been doing a lot of environmentally friendly initiatives in conjunction with different partners, clean up campaigns among them.

Yes, they may regularly embezzle and divert funds meant for different uses but, let’s give credit where it’s due.

Over the past few years, the council has put up litter bins in the city.  A few months later they disappear from the streets.

But then we the citizens unhook them for our private use, some using the metal to make different containers, including pots and dishes.

Even when the material used for bins was changed to plastic, some people vandalized them, to what end I do not know. That’s why we have so much litter. 

Our duty

So how are we different from those we accuse of corruptly diverting those funds from city coffers? Are we not also stealing from the city?

Yes we do not have the best service delivery, but what can we do to help out, noting the little resources our council has to work with?

I’m sure, if money permitted, they could sweep the streets maybe three times a day, but would it be a wise use of resources when we can just place our litter in the right places?

There are other areas that need money more urgently, like revamping the water supply. I’m taking my stand against littering, and if everyone else joins in then there won’t be need for sweeping.

Let’s be the solution to our litter, not the problem.

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Kundai is a 25 year old freelance journalist. He is the founder and Chairperson of the Zimbabwe Arts Journalists Association (ZAJA), a not for profit organization that seeks to improve arts news content through promotion of freedom of speech and objectivity in art and culture journalism. In line with this vision, he has also set up ‘Spiked‘, a news website together with some colleagues.

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