We have relentlessly talked about the need for each individual to play their part to clean-up the environs in which we operate from and complement efforts by many groups that have, especially since last year, embarked on aggressive clean-up campaigns.
These calls, however, have been widely ignored and many people evidently look at cleaning up as a task that is highly denigrating and a preserve for council cleaners.
“What are the cleaners being paid for then? They are being paid big moneys so they can keep this place clean. Why should we do the job for them?” were the sentiments one Harare resident echoed when asked what he thought of companies that had converged to clean up the litter-infested Copacabana area last year.
In the meantime, many continue to litter and dump their garbage just anywhere they see convenient and as we speak, the country is characterised by piles and piles of stinky green-bottle fly-infested litter.
Is it any wonder then the nation is currently wallowing in the face of a typhoid outbreak threatening to take us back to the 2008 scenario when many, especially in the high-density suburbs, succumbed to the cholera scourge?
Typhoid, which is contracted chiefly through the consumption of dirt, is suspected to be emanating mostly from drinking dirty water. Considering that the Harare City Council was recently fined by the Environmental Management Agency on the charge, among others, of depositing raw sewage into water bodies, this does not come as a surprise.
But besides the raw sewage, which I suspect to be the chief culprit, the litter we continue to carelessly throw around often finds its way into the rivers that eventually feed our taps.
With the city councils claiming to be still economically incapacitated, it is highly unlikely all the water purification processes are being carried through.
Sanity prevails at Harare City Council finally
On a more positive note, Harare City Council (HCC) seems to have finally seen the danger of uncollected refuse and in the face of the typhoid outbreak, has no choice but to take urgent corrective measures.
It also seems to have finally heeded the call by Environmental Management Agency (EMA) to start collecting refuse and place time-tables in the media showing dates when refuse would be collected in each area.
It, however, remains to be seen how sincere the city council is and whether or not we will soon have the pleasure of seeing litter piles shrinking.
In Mbare for instance, litter that started piling up way back in 2010 remains there to the present day with the piles of dirt now resembling mountains.
In the meantime, evidently unmoved, many deliberately set up shop next to the dirt, selling mostly home-cooked food stuffs which customers actually buy.
As much as we expect the councils to clean up our areas, experience with Zimbabwe’s service delivery has taught us to never expect too much.
The council should ensure refuse is collected on a regular basis, as per their mandate, but there is no guarantee they will actually do it.
And if we continue to mess up our areas expecting the council to clean after us, we might have typhoid to deal with instead.
And when that happens and we have to make endless trips to the hospital, it becomes our problem to deal with, not the council’s.
So yes, if the councils could collect litter and clean up more, that would really help. However, we really cannot afford to place our health and well-being in the hands of our service providers as that would be tantamount to suicide.
Instead, we all need to take the initiative and start ensuring our surroundings are clean. You might not care much about the environment, even though it is in your best interest that you do, but you need to care for yours and your family’s health. How much it will cost you when there is a diarrhoea outbreak in the home, or worse still, typhoid, is hard to imagine.
If you care, you will join in the clean-up campaign by at least ensuring that whatever place you operate from, is litter-free.
Hopefully the council will complement our efforts by collecting litter as non-collection has led to many disposing of it just anywhere, fuelling disease outbreaks.
By Chipo Masara
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