The National Cleanup Campaign, smart cities and the desperate opposition

By Nobleman Runyanga

On 5 December last year, President Emmerson Mnangagwa launched the National Cleanup Campaign which, going forward, will see Zimbabweans cleaning up their towns, cities, growth points shopping centres and homes among other places every first Friday of every month from 0800 to 1000 hours. The initiative has received so much buy-in from different stakeholders including local authorities, Government ministries, churches and private companies that it has been a success.

One of the reasons for the wide acceptance of the campaign, apart from the fact that it is being championed by the Head of State, is the fact that it benefits the ordinary people. Most Africans, Zimbabweans included, appreciate the cleanliness of Rwanda’s capital city, Kigali but surprisingly the same people locally continue to throw litter anywhere – expecting someone somewhere in some Government office to clean after them. Attitude. The President’s initiative, therefore, is also about inculcating a culture of taking personal responsibility for the cleanliness of one’s environment.

The pre-National Cleanup Campaign situation was worsened by some inept local authorities such as the City of Harare which, despite collecting rates and other charges, continue to prioritise its executives’ obscene perks at the expensive of basic service delivery sacrificing residents’ lives. In other countries, diseases such as cholera and typhoid are now decades-old history. Not so in Zimbabwe as, thanks to the City of Harare, the nation continues to grapple with them. Many private sector players such as SeedCo, Tel One, CBZ Bank among others partner the municipality by donating branded street refuse buns in the hope of benefitting from the marketing mileage generated from the traffic of residents disposing of litter in the bins and some just passing. The corporate organisations’ efforts have many times been turned into marketing nightmares when the pasted brands end up being associated with overflowing litter from unemptied bins. Such businesses have also ended up watching helplessly as their brand graphics on the bins are destroyed when the uncollected litter in the branded bins is torched by street kids for warmth or for the sheer fun of it.

The City of Harare’s bad habit of giving its corporate benefactors raw deals irked most people when Econet Wireless donated US$10 million to fight the September 2018 cholera outbreak and some of its procurement staff inflated quotations of some goods such as gloves in order to benefit from the donated funds personally through criminal means.

Apart from the clean environment which is assured by the campaign, clean cities and towns dovetail perfectly with the concept of smart cities whose other thrust includes the use of information technology (IT) to monitor and manage traffic, parking, areas of high crime and disasters among a host of others. A smart city is defined as an urban area which uses different types of electronic data collection sensors to supply information which is used to manage assets and resources efficiently. From an urban planning point of view they can also be regarded as modern cities.

 In this regard, the Minister of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing, July Moyo has indicated Government’s plans to transform cities and towns into urban habitats of international standards starting with Harare, Bulawayo and Mutare. The National Cleanup campaign is, therefore, complimentary to the nation’s quest to move with the rest of the world through the concept of smart cities.  It foregrounds the President broad vision for better lives for all Zimbabweans.

Despite its success so far, the campaign has not been without detractors. Realising that the campaign was receiving overwhelming support from all the country including big local authorities such as the City of Harare and small ones such as the Chipinge Town Council, the MDC Secretary for Local Government, Sasel Zvidzai sheepishly crept out of the woodwork to shamelessly claim that the initiative had been taken from his party’s smart cities concept which he stated was part of the MDC 2018 election manifesto. Such charges coming from the MDC are not new. The Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Professor Muthuli Ncube was also accused “plagiarism” when he crafted the Transitional Stabilisation Programme (TSP) document last year.

It is interesting that the MDC, whose councillors dominate most urban local authority councils came up with a “smart” initiative and placed it under lock and key awaiting that most unlikely the day that its leader Nelson Chamisa rules Zimbabwe while Harare, Chitungwiza and other towns and cities’ residents wallow in dirt, disease and death. What the President did was to simply demonstrate to Zimbabweans how to deal with challenges starting with what one has and where they are. This campaign is reminiscent of how the ZANU PF Buhera South legislator, Joseph Chinotimba used his personal vehicle to remove uncollected refuse from Mbare in January 2015 even though he was not the suburb’s parliamentarian.

Given that the MDC in general and the MDC-dominated Harare City Council’s have a chequered record when it comes to the commitment for cleanliness, it becomes clear that Zvidzai’s claim was just a face saver. The President, through a seemingly ordinary initiative, literary pulled the carpet from under the opposition’s feet. The opposition was gazumped right in its urban backyard where it enjoys some measure of support, leaving it dizzied and groping for excuses. It is because of this desperation that the opposition sacrificed Zvidzai by making him the mouthpiece of the MDC’s laughable claim.

It is, however, very gratifying to note that even the urban local authorities under the MDC’s charge have completely ignored their national leadership’s regressive attitude to the President’s initiative and fully supported him. Progress and clean environments have been the ultimate winners over the negative efforts of a narrow-minded opposition political party whose leadership’s views are clouded by pettiness and the unquenched desire for power.