Nqobile Tshili, Chronicle Reporter
BULAWAYO City Council (BCC) has tightened the noose on littering and is in the process of engaging Government to impose deterrent fines on litter bugs.
This year council will arrest and fine any resident found littering.
Bulawayo was in the past renowned for its cleanliness and ranked among the world’s cleanest cities, but both the city centre and residential areas have become an eyesore in the past few years.
Areas such as Lobengula Street and 6th Avenue Extension, where vendors operate, resemble a dumpsite.
The Chronicle has on several occasions observed city council employees cleaning the city roads, particularly in the mornings, but at the end of the day their efforts go to waste because of the litter bugs.
The local authority is sometimes blamed for promoting littering due to delays in collecting garbage, particularly in residential areas.
As the country enters a new year, it seems council has made anti-littering part of its resolutions.
Bulawayo Acting Town Clerk Mr Kimpton Ndimande yesterday said council wants to return to the basics in addressing littering issues.
He said they will lobby Government to make littering fines punitive.
“The littering penalties are very low at the moment so, we are lobbying Government to make the fine more deterrent.
But it is difficult to tell people that you don’t want them to just throw away litter when the city is just dirty.
So as council we have resolved that we will lead by example by cleaning the city.
We are going to embark on a campaign to clean the city starting tomorrow.
Once, we have shown the way, we will invite residents to complement council in making the city clean,” he said.
Mr Ndimande said council will even engage the Zimbabwe Republic Police to get litter bugs arrested.
“If someone is found littering, that individual will be fined. We will engage the police to assist us in enforcing the anti-littering regulations, as we used to do before,” said Mr Ndimande.
He said BCC will retrace its anti-littering campaign to schools.
“We want to return to the city’s tradition where we were saying if someone is found littering, they get fined.
I can’t explain what happened for these regulations to be relaxed; maybe it’s general lawlessness.
There were some campaigns that were done in schools to teach pupils on the ills of littering, but we no longer do that as a city.
But we want to revive that culture and clean the city because failure to do so would result in the outbreak of diseases,” he said.
Mr Ndimande said council has started engaging relevant stakeholders in the anti-littering drive and last Friday the local authority held a meeting with vendors so that they come aboard.
Vendors that operate illegally are accused of dumping and some of them hide their wares in storm drains contributing to flash floods in the city centre.
He said there must be a change of attitudes in as far as littering is concerned among members of the public, as some residents do not see a problem with throwing away litter even if they are close to a bin.
Environmental Management Agency (EMA) spokesperson Ms Amkela Sidange said the littering laws are not deterrent enough.
She said her agency is in the process of lobbying Government for a legislation review and criminalise littering.
“What is actually happening at the moment is that we have started a review of our legislation because we have observed that laws change with time in line with policy pronouncements that are there.
So as an agency, we have started on the issue of laws review and other factors that are there, including the issue of criminalising littering.
This means that littering will be a criminal offence, not just a punishable one,” said Ms Sidange.
“We impress on littering being made a criminal offence and this means it will get attention from other law enforcement agencies so that at the end of the day anti-littering does not become a task for EMA and local authorities, but all law enforcement agencies.”
She said at the moment litter bugs pay fines or risk being imprisoned for up to six months, which does not discourage littering, yet the environmental effects will be severe.
“Littering has various impacts, first and foremost it is an environmental nuisance and can reduce the value of properties; secondly it causes environmental pollution where we can have these dumpsites becoming health hazards, causing typhoid, cholera and even malaria as mosquitoes can breed there.
We can also talk of situations like flooding where the waste is taken into rivers when it rains, causing contamination of potable water by this waste,” she said.
Ms Sidange said littering is affecting the country’s economy considering that Zimbabwe is also a tourist destination.
She said there must be a change of culture insofar as littering is concerned, as most people do not realise how problematic littering is.
Environmentalist Mr Tonderai Shoko of Keep Bulawayo Clean said council’s initiative will go a long way in restoring the city’s status.
He said heavy fines are necessary to sustain the anti-littering momentum.
“This is a welcome development and in any other city, which is totally clean, there are spot fines for littering.
As we cross over to Botswana, if you litter there is a fine of over P1 000 and you will find people from Bulawayo littering up to the Plumtree Border Post.
But the moment we cross the border to Botswana, we no longer do it because of the fine.
So, this is a wake up call for everyone and it is very welcome and it is going to make sure that the city will claim its status as a clean city,” he said. – @nqotshili