Does Zimbabwe need heavy-handedness to be clean?

It is shockingly outrageous that most people of Zimbabwe are senseless litterbugs who do not see anything wrong in chucking beer bottles out of the windows of their cars when driving on the highways , people who do not hesitate to throw empty plastic bottles anywhere on the ground.

Zimbabwe’s urban environment is by all measures one of the dirtiest in the whole world and it is a shame that a society which misses no chance to boast of the high levels of education among its people sees nothing wrong in polluting its physical surroundings.

The filth that pervades the country’s urban surroundings is a culmination of governance failures in the field of service delivery and a culture of recklessness on the part of the people.

Good service delivery would see city local authorities such as urban and rural district councils being able to remove litter regularly. The local authorities would be in a position to control its spaces and restrict informal trading, which unarguably is one of the main cause of litter on the streets, in the sanitary lanes and on the pavements.

With optimum service delivery levels, government would be able to enforce environmental protection laws through effective use of the police and such statutory bodies as the Environmental Management Authority (Ema), which is the country’s so-called environmental watchdog.

It is unfortunate that government seems not to care about cleaner urban settings and its enforcement arms like the police and Ema are just but toothless barking dogs that seldom bite.

Combining those governance shortcomings and a culture of recklessness among the citizens will give you a toxic outcome of a dirty and unattractive country.

Do we need a Lee Kuan Yew?

Lee Kuan Yew was prime minister of Singapore for 30 years. He was a no-nonsense leader who ruled with an iron fist and set Singapore on the development trajectory which has made the country not only a financial hub but a very clean country.

Under Yew, people would be jailed for such ‘small’ environmental infractions as spitting chewing gum onto the ground or throwing an empty tin anywhere other than where it should be thrown. As a result of this approach, a new culture of cleanliness was born and people began to appreciate the importance of environmental health.

Some people have suggested that Zimbabwe needs such kind of a ruler if there is to be some order and sense of responsibility among its people. Closer home, Paul Kagame of Rwanda seems to be slowly but surely moving towards attaining what Lee attained in Singapoere.

Rwanda is one of the cleanest countries in Africa, and its capital city Kigali is undoubtedly the cleanest alongside Windhoek, the capital of Namibia. Kagame is known for being a heavy-handed ruler and many have criticised his democratic credentials as deeply flawed especially in matters of human rights and personal freedoms.

Politics aside, the fact remains that Rwanda is achieving much more in terms of environmental protection than any other African country. Zimbabwe probably needs such kind of a ruler for the people to take seriously the gospel of the environment in light of the worsening effects of climate change and the ever-declining numbers of marine life.

On many occasions, I have seen people throwing plastics, rubbers and metallic objects in the river without even blinking an eye. It would be commendable if a solution to the recklessness among people of this country is found.

We suggest stronger policing and enforcement of laws and by-laws on environmental protection, anti-littering and illegal dumping. Moreover, a bigger portion of national resources should be committed to environmental protection efforts.

It can no longer be business as usual!