Harare grapples with garbage crisis

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HARARE – Mounds of waste in garbage dumps around the Zimbabwe’s capital are hindering the citizenry’s confidence in local government.


Trash cans or bins overflow with rotten fruit, spoiled eggs, and other garbage.


Pedestrians have to jump over disgusting trash scattered on the sidewalks, at bus ranks, shopping centres and street corners across Harare, meanwhile either cursing the city government or holding their noses.


Meanwhile, plans for a waste sorting and recycling plant remain just good intentions.


The trash mountains have turned into a pungent symbol of the city’s failure to rise above political score-keeping and solve a persistent problem, and they have helped to undermine some residents’ confidence in the MDC-run local government.


The capital’s waste is being dumped for weeks, with residents now complaining of the unbearable stench.


Harare City Council director of health Prosper Chonzi has warned that Harare is a health ticking time bomb.


What was once dubbed the Sunshine City has now turned into a huge pile of garbage as uncollected refuse accumulates.


Some suburbs in the city have gone for over three months without refuse collection despite paying rates every month.


Chonzi admitted to the Daily News on Sunday that the refuse collection management system is in shambles.


“It is important that as we manage these conditions, we also need to keep our environment clean by collecting and managing refuse properly.


“All these heaps of rubbish are the perfect breeding areas for vermin, particularly rats, mosquitoes and flies that then carry the bacteria from one place to another.


“That, compounded with unavailability of potable water and also the mismanagement of sewage, is a definite ticking time bomb. We need to manage our environment carefully so that we do not have a recurrence of 2008 whereby 400 people died of cholera in Harare and 4 000 countrywide,” Chonzi said. 


Mayor Bernard Manyenyeni has lamented how the city has gone for weeks without collecting garbage due to a lack of fuel for garbage collection trucks.


He has called on council bureaucrats to stop sponsoring Premier Soccer  League side Harare City and divert the money to garbage collections.


“Since we got into office in 2013, we have spent nearly $5 million on football. If that money was channelled towards service delivery, we would have bought 50 refuse compactors — enough to sustain the city’s growing garbage concerns for the next 10 years. We would never see uncollected refuse again.


“Half of our salary wage bill can buy 22 trucks which could be a huge development towards ridding the city of mounds of rubbish,” Manyenyeni said.


Zimbabwe Doctors for Human Rights executive director Calvin Fambirai said council has an obligation to keep the city clean and not endanger residents’ lives.


He added that by going for weeks without refuse collection, council was slowly breeding vermin which could see the recurrence of diseases such as cholera and typhoid which usually erupt in filthy environments.


“HCC as a duty bearer has a responsibility to respect and promote the rights of citizens through meeting its obligations as a duty bearer. This includes but is not limited to regular collection of garbage. 


“We have seen garbage accumulating on street corners and at bus terminus and we urge the council to ensure a clean environment through attending to the garbage. If left unchecked, such accumulation of garbage pre-disposes residents to diseases such as typhoid and cholera,” he said.


Combined Harare Residents Association (Chra) chairperson Simbarashe Moyo said the failure to collect refuse should not be blamed on a small truck fleet or fuel shortages.


He said the current fleet of 47 trucks was donated and can service every ward in Harare.


“The city fathers are exhibiting clear signs of maladministration in the way they are handling this,” Moyo said.


Acting Harare town clerk Josephine Ncube said the city will in the next three weeks receive its first consignment of 30 refuse trucks.


She said council was also concluding the tender for the supply of an additional 10 skip trucks as well as wrapping up a joint venture deal to set up a plant to convert waste to energy. Deputy chief secretary in the Office of the President and Cabinet Ray Ndlukula has said heaps and heaps of uncollected rubbish were now a familiar face in some parts of the city, especially in high density suburbs, with some residents and small business operators now taking the initiative to burn the litter on their own, hence causing another problem to the environment which is pollution.


Tourism and Hospitality minister Walter Mzembi also lamented how the filth in the country was making Zimbabwe a “hard sell” to foreign visitors.


“Littering is everybody’s business. We have had the experience of visiting other countries and the littering here shames us. Cleanliness as they say is next to Godliness…I cannot market a dirty environment and we will have a deliberate effort to make sure that there is a clean-up message going on,” he said.


Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa also implored local authorities last week to ensure that their towns and cities are clean at all times to attract more tourists.

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