ONCE a city of glamour and glitter, Harare could now arguably be said to be among the dirtiest in sub-Saharan Africa.
Report by Christopher Mahove
The once “Sunshine City” has degenerated into a hub for uncollected garbage, flowin
g raw sewage and congested streets.
It is now home to hundreds of street kids and vagabonds. It has become normal for people to walk past heaps of fresh human waste in the central business district (CBD).
They just look aside.
So sorry is the state of Harare that in some high-density suburbs, they have christened some bus stops PaMarara, the shona word for a place of rubbish.
Residents have turned to dumping their garbage at open spaces in their neighbourhoods because the city fathers are failing to collect refuse.
This has been made worse by the proliferation of street vendors both in the CBD and high-density suburbs, as people try to eke out an honest living.
While council has by-laws to regulate the discharge of refuse, the local authority appears to be failing to enforce them.
For several years, council has been fighting running battles with vendors and commuter omnibus drivers and rank marshals.
Harare City council chairperson for the Environmental Management Committee, Stewart Mtizwa, said the council was not to blame because it “inherited the problems”.
He also pointed a finger at several commissions appointed by the Minister of Local Government, Urban and Rural Development, Ignatious Chombo, as the culprits behind poor service delivery.
“The cause of this rot in the city is simple. There was no service delivery for the past 20 years,” he said. “We inherited a lot of problems from the commission that was there before us. They were not answerable to anyone and were just not doing anything.”
Mtizwa also said service delivery deteriorated during the time the council was outsourcing services such as refuse collection.
“Remember the time when Tony Gara [the late former Harare mayor], was given the tender to collect refuse, there were no checks and balances,” he said.
Mtizwa said, as the planning authority, the commission had not done its homework to ensure city by-laws were adhered to by both individuals and industry.
He added the economic meltdown had also worsened the situation as a huge number of jobless people, including qualified professionals, had resorted to vending for a living.
“Because most of our stalls were situated at bus termini, vendors are now following people to their workplaces and are now selling their wares on pavements and at street corners,” he said.
Council, he said, was in the process of designating ideal places where vendors would be allowed to operate from legally. The places would have adequate litter bins and ablution facilities.
“We have consulted the vendors, but their wishes are simple, they don’t want to be moved from where they are. But that is when we come in and say we will not tolerate that kind of lawlessness,” he said.
Mtizwa, however, believes Harare could still be taken back to its Sunshine status, revealing that the council would this week receive 27 new refuse trucks, to bring the total compactors to 60.
The city requires about 120 trucks to effectively service all the areas.
Harare Residents Trust (HRT) communications officer, Charles Mazorodze, said council lacked a clear-cut policy to address the rising demand for services.
“Basically, the population in Harare has been growing over the past 10 years against dwindling service delivery,” said Mazorodze.
“The Harare City Council has no concrete plan to address service delivery and has no strategic direction in terms of refuse collection.”
He said council was actually shortchanging ratepayers, who were paying refuse charges every month yet their refuse was not being collected.
Mazorodze said city fathers were exhibiting high levels of inconsideration by prioritising their salaries at the expense of service delivery.
“Council, in liaison with the private sector and central government, must come up with a comprehensive plan and also channel resources towards the purchase of adequate compactors,” he said.
“It remains the duty of the city council to ensure adequate litter bins are available at convenient places,” he said.
Stakeholders must intervene: Mapako
Environmental Management Ag-ency (EMA) acting education and publicity officer, Rambwayi Mapako, said the problem of litter was a result of lack of innovation among stakeholders.
“The problem is all to do with us, individual households and companies. Normally we are supposed to be recycling because 70% of the waste we produce is bio-degradable,” he said.
Mapako said it was everybody’s role to ensure a clean environment: “There is need for collaboration between and among stakeholders, including the media industry in supporting activities aimed at cleaning up the city.”