The sight of littered empty bottles of an abused cough mixture, energy drinks, opaque beer, fizzy drinks and disposable kaylite containers for take-aways welcomes you to one of the busiest commuter omnibus terminus in Harare.
It’s Sunday, and traffic is less heavy. But the filth and pungent smell from choked drainage systems tells a story of a bustling activity in a popular convergence area and paints a picture of filthiness that has relegated an erstwhile Sunshine City into a garbage dump.
Amid this eye sore, a seemingly drunk young man lies face down on the smutty ground as substance abuse continues to be a national problem.
With independent estimates showing that 80% of the population is out of formal employment due to informalisation of the economy, many now wake up each day to sell their wares at busy omnibus ranks.
Notwithstanding daily running battles with metropolitan police, hundreds of vendors plying their trade are visibly undeterred by the fetid odour and health hazard that surrounds them.
Known as Copacabana rank after a yesteryear popular night spot, the Chinhoyi Street rank has become a workplace not only for omnibus drivers and touts but for hundreds of Zimbabweans trying to eke out a living through vending.
But in the midst of this, refuse disposal and collection remains a challenge for the local authority.
The Zimbabwe Independent observed that at Copacabana rank only five bins are there to service thousands of commuters who use the station daily.
At Market Square terminus about eight portable bins are placed to service large volumes of people commuting from the rank.
A closer look at the commuter omnibus terminus rank located at the Harare Central police station commonly known as the “Charge Office” produced shocking observations where only five portable bins are available.
In each of the three terminuses, about two big refuse bins are placed at the back of the rank ostensibly to act as collection reservoirs by the refuse trucks.
The rest of Harare’s central business district (CBD) has not been spared from this rot.
The proliferation of vendors along pavements and streets — during the day and night — has only made the situation a lost cause for city cleaners who in vain try to restore yesteryear glory.
Along Mbuya Nehanda, from Bank Street to Robert Mugabe Street no bins are in place to dispose litter.
The same can be said between Albion and Bank streets.
Vendors plying their business in most ranks pay US$1,50 to the city council via electronic cards connected to their mobile banking platform, feel city fathers are not doing enough to address the problem of littering.
According to a bottled water vendor at Market Square, Anyway Kabaya city fathers should show commitment by way of providing bins.
“Under normal circumstances the city council should supply us with bins so that we reduce the litter problems. This is not justified we pay US$1,50 a day so they have to provide us with adequate bins to put litter,” he said.
Another vendor Tafara Jura, based at Copacabana, lambasted the city fathers for sitting on their laurels by failing to clean up the city.
“We use empty card board boxes as temporary bins to manage garbage at this place. We wonder where council put our money because there are no bins here.”
Research shows that litter is a threat to public health and it attracts vermin and is a breeding ground for bacteria with items such as broken glass and syringes posing a health hazard in public places.
Zimbabwe’s waste management authority, Environmental Management Agency (Ema) which has in recent times scaled up its battle on fighting irresponsible litter disposal contends that good manners should begin at home.
A patrol team comprising of Ema has been moving around the capital imposing fines to litter bugs. But the fight is still far from over.
Ema spokesperson Steady Kangata said some offenders have been prosecuted in the past year.
“In 2015 1 600 litter bugs were prosecuted. We call for mindset change. We are not stopping on individuals but go to big corporates to say they must follow the law. We are saying let’s move together and we doing this through environmental education and environmental prosecution. Our team is on the ground.”
Harare City Council spokesperson Michael Chideme said the local authority has come up with awareness campaigns to reduce litter in the city in its quest to make Harare a world-class city in the medium term.
“We are carrying out education campaigns to educate the public about the importance of not littering. We are telling the public that when the city is not clean we kill tourism,” Chideme said.
“At the same time we are sourcing them from the private sector. We have a problem with vandalism of bins in the central business district. Metal bins are stolen and used as braai stands, plastic ones are susceptibble to fire.”
Concerned with unpleasant sights in most urban centres, Environment, Water and Climate Change Minister Oppah Muchinguri last Friday said police has arrested 700 litter bugs so far as part of a sustained anti-litter campaign that started on January 1 this year.
“The police have arrested more than 700 now and we are continuing. We have also come up with a comprehensive strategy, which takes on board the major stakeholders,” she said.
Harare Residents Trust director Precious Shumba lambasted Ema for rushing to impose fines without making sure there were adequate refuse collecting containers in the CBD.
“Ema is just fundraising; people cannot walk from Market Square to Fourth Street holding onto litter. They should first put mechanisms that ensure that people comply,” Shumba said. “There is disconnection between implementation, enforcement and compliance. You cannot expect maximum compliance when refuse collection bins are not available.”
The Environmental Management Act of 2002 Chapter 20:27 Section 83 prohibits littering.
“No person shall discard, dump or leave any litter on any land or water surface, street, road or site in or at any place except in a container provided for that purpose or at a place which has been specially designated, indicated, provided or set apart for such purpose,” the Act reads.
“An owner of a transport conveyance shall ensure that no litter is thrown from his transport conveyance. Every person or authority in control of or responsible for the maintenance of any place shall at all times ensure that containers or places are provided which will normally be adequate and suitable for the discarding of litter,” further reads the Act.
While litter has become a major problem for local authorities, downstream new industries have emerged.
Waste recycling has seen competition for toilet tissue making companies intensifying with other recyclers making plastic bottle products.
Ecoplastics, Petrocozim, Collect-a-can Environment Africa and Plastix Incorporated are among many other companies in the business of recycling waste in Zimbabwe.