By Farai Mabeza
TUTAI Magocha hails from the high density suburb of Hatcliffe and everyday he joins many of his fellow residents who work in central Harare to commute to and from the capital city.
What disturbs Magocha, on his daily trips, are the ever rising mounds of rubbish littering the city centre.
Magocha says he gets filled with pain and anger every time he sees dirt on the streets of what was once known as the sunshine city.
Because filthy is everywhere, the situation is getting unbearable for him.
“We don’t respect each other anymore. Throwing rubbish on the ground is a sign of disrespect. When one is rebuked, even politely, for throwing rubbish on the ground they can give you a very rude response,” said Magocha.
Last year, council, along with the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) and the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) launched a campaign that was meant to educate residents about the dangers of littering the city as well as forewarning them about their efforts towards enforcing existing laws and regulations.
Dubbed “My City My Pride,” the ultimate objective of the campaign was to arrest and fine any litter bugs caught within the environs of the capital.
Harare’s acting town clerk, Josephine Ncube, flanked by representatives from EMA and ZRP, at a press conference last year, vowed to clean up the city.
Harare is currently using 2 000 anti-litter monitors from different suburbs, who, however, do not have the powers to arrest.
All these monitors can do is to inform the authorities of any litter bugs, who then take action.
Individuals are fined US$20 for littering while companies and shops are charged up to US$5 000 for dumping litter.
Despite these efforts, the campaign seems to have faltered.
A few months after the campaign was launched, Harare does not look any cleaner despite the fact that close to 1 000 people have been fined so far for littering the city.
Looking at the garbage piling up along the city’s busiest roads and bus termini, one wonders what has happened to the regulators and law enforcement agencies.
Government has been threatening to ban items such as airtime recharge cards and kaylite food packaging for years now, but has lacked the courage to follow through on its threats due to growing unemployment.
A number of people are now eking out a living from selling airtime recharge cards and running fast foods outlets, even backyard eateries that serve their food in kaylite packs.
Environmental authorities have instituted many regulations which are wantonly disregarded or halfheartedly implemented.
For example, while all public service vehicles are supposed to carry bins to enable their passengers to dispose their litter, very few if any have them. The drivers and conductors actually tell passengers to throw litter outside through windows.
The city itself is also culpable in that in many areas, including the Avenues, residents go for weeks without their rubbish being collected.
There are also a few bins available within the city centre and most of them were put there by corporates.
“In fact, it is getting worse despite the activities of EMA and the police,” Magocha points out.
“We need citizen policing on our streets. It is our responsibility. Residents should take action when they see anyone dropping litter on the street. Companies that manufacture or produce or use items that litter our city such as airtime recharge cards, plastics and kaylite food packaging should pay a special levy which can then be channeled towards environmental management issues,” he added.
Harare’s monitoring and evaluation manager, Dorothy Mavolwane, said residents should assume the responsibility of keeping the city clean.
“Our litter bylaws are under review so we are using the Environmental Management Act Chapter 20.27 and statutory instrument 52 of 2011 to enforce antilittering,” she said.
Environment Minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri has called on the public to be innovative in their waste management, urging farm produce vendors and restaurants to dig pits for their bio-degradable waste.
“We are also concerned with vendors that sell roasted mealies and take-aways and we are saying dig pits to bury your litter, since it is degradable. There are fertiliser companies that buy these materials, so this is a sustainable waste management system,” said Muchinguri-Kashiri.
It is clear that the law on its own will not be enough to restore the clean image Harare once had.
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