Litterbugs are a nuisance not only in Zimbabwean cities, but all over the world, despite being constantly targeted by authorities.
The fact that littering remains a problem in many cities shows that the menace is far beyond paying lip service to tackling it. It is because of the problems associated with bringing littering to an end that we welcome any efforts being made to fight the scourge that has turned our beautiful capital city into an eyesore.
Recent pronouncements by the Harare City Council that litterbugs will face a sentence of community service or a fine of between US$20 and US$100 for individuals are most welcome.
Commuter omnibus operators will be fined US$50, while bus owners and companies will fork out US$100 if found guilty.
But the question we often ask when such pronouncements are made is: Will the punishment be effective enough to deter would-be litterbugs?
Before we even talk about the deterrence of the penalties: Does the city council have enough manpower to monitor the residents to ensure that all litterbugs are brought to account?
These are the questions that the city has to pose before the penalties can be said to be good enough to ensure cleanliness.
There has to be means and ways of apprehending the culprits and ensuring that the city eventually wins its case in the event that the litterbugs are brought before the courts.
It might be easier for the authorities to penalise companies that throw litter in front of their premises, but individual litterbugs have proved difficult to detect and control.
Many of them have a knack for throwing litter from moving vehicles and they have been used to this reckless way of littering that also poses a danger to other motorists.
In this case, increased sanctions alone have not proved effective on litterbugs.
We recommend a multipronged approach that includes increased anti-littering public educational programmes and the installation of more trash bins in the cities.
The city councils especially in Harare, must start their campaign by carrying massive awareness on the bad effects of littering. Carrying out such educational campaigns will assist in changing the people’s attitudes.
We are not trying to evade the undeniable fact that among us are some people who are inherently dirty, but at the same time for such people, no amount of laws can change their attitude towards littering.
With a little bit of education and enlightenment, such people can change their attitude towards tidiness, bit by bit.
It has to also take the citizens to have a keen interest in cleanliness and be mindful of where they dispose their trash.
In the same breath, we are not saying punishing the offenders will not be effective.
The major impediment is that by rounding up all the litterbugs, we might end up bringing the city to a standstill since more than half the population may end up before the courts within a few days.
This means that the authorities must be effective in particular areas they will have targeted and by arresting a few people, word will eventually spread throughout the city that the anti-litter campaigners mean business.
Littering has always proved to be a complex subject and it needs sober minds to effectively tackle. It consists of throwing paper, bottles, bricks, sand and anything one can throw from a car and drop off in bags. Objects flying off the back of trucks and motorcycles, out of the window of a car, whether you know it’s happening or not, is littering.
All these types of littering are happening in Harare, showing the extent of the job at hand. The city has been ravaged by littering and it now looks ragged, to say nothing of the stench from mounds of garbage in many alleys and along open spaces.
This has created breeding places for disease vectors such as flies, mosquitoes and rodents. There is need to remind people that curbing litter is everyone’s responsibility, after all it is said cleanliness is next to Godliness.