Tendai Rupapa Senior Reporter
First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa yesterday joined hundreds of Mbare residents and commuter omnibus and bus crews in cleaning the Mbare Musika long-distance bus rank.
Amai Mnangagwa is the national environmental patron.
Mbare Musika rank is Harare’s busiest rank where buses and kombis to various towns, cities and remote areas are boarded, hence the large numbers of people at any given time there, and the associated hygiene challenges.
Her clean-up could not have come at any better time as with the onset of the rains – if the environment remained unclean and contaminated, the outbreak of water-borne diseases would continue to be hazardous to lives.
Yesterday’s event was in fulfilment of a promise Amai Mnangagwa made while leading this month’s National Environment Cleaning Day Campaign two weeks ago that she would return to clean up the area.
President Mnangagwa declared every first Friday of the month a National Environment Cleaning Day.
The First Lady said people should not wait for the designated day to clean the environment, but should make it a daily routine.
She led in the sweeping and clearing of garbage heaps, giving the terminus a new face.
Addressing the gathering at Mai Musodzi Hall after the anti-litter campaign, the First Lady said keeping the environment clean helped foster good health for individuals, as well as the community.
“We learn new things everyday,” she said while speaking in the vernacular for the benefit of her audience.
“We grew up differently, but when working collectively like this, that is how we learn the importance of good personal hygiene.
“Women, men and children should be smart at all times to prevent diseases. We never used to wear special clothes during our youth, but we made sure those cheap clothes we had were properly washed and ironed.
“Nothing beats the cleanliness of both individuals and the environment. Diseases mainly spread in unhygienic conditions. If you are not proud of your toilet, your environment and where you sleep, then you have a problem. We should always aim to be tidy. This cannot be done only for a day, it is something we should do continuously for our own good.”
The First Lady implored women not to worry about expensive detergents and use the little resources at their disposal to maintain cleanliness.
“That piece of laundry soap can do wonders,” she said.
“It can be used to wash clothes and for bathing. Our children must always be smart. Smartness shows how organised a woman is. In this rainy season, it is important to maintain cleanliness.”
The First Lady said people should never stop cleaning the environment and ensuring that all litter was placed in bins.
She spoke strongly against people who relieve themselves in public places and in empty bottles.
“We must stop creating problems for ourselves,” she said.
“Let us be organised at all times. Let us stop the habit of throwing litter through windows, especially banana peels.”
Amai Mnangagwa said some well-wishers, after recognising the efforts she is putting in keeping the environment clean, approached her and shared their idea of sprucing up several bus terminuses.
She said she recommended the involvement of city fathers to look into the proposal.
The First Lady, who is also the National Transport and Drivers Association (NTDA) patron, took time to educate bus and kombi crews on deportment to promote professionalism in the transport sector.
She said it was important for drivers and rank marshals to have uniforms and name tags for easy identification, adding that even when one was to commit an offence, he or she can be easily identified.
The First Lady presented the crew with samples of uniforms, though she emphasised that she was not imposing the idea on them.
NTDA, led by its founding president Mrs Jotina Matanhire and its members, welcomed the First Lady’s idea and the crew thanked her for coming up with it, adding that it was long overdue.
The First Lady said it was key for drivers and rank marshals to be groomed and have good deportment for the benefit of the country’s tourism sector by not using abusive language and striving to boost the image of the country.
She invited ‘mahwindi’ to the front and asked them to demonstrate how they interact with commuters who board their buses and kombis on daily basis.
The crew admitted that the way they behave at the ranks was unprofessional and promised to change after listening to the First Lady’s teachings and advise.
They said even though they harass commuters, they were not thieves insisting, that there were thieves at the rank preying on unsuspecting commuters pretending to be rank marshals.
“We want to thank Amai for considering our plight,” said a tout Irvine Musemwa. “At times we are accused of crimes we would not have committed and these uniforms will help clear our names.
“We are not bad people, but people paint us with the wrong brush. On personal hygiene we learnt a lot and from today onwards we promise to maintain hygiene and always cleaning our buses and our surroundings.
“Its not good to have Amai coming to clean for us, we should take heed of her advice and keep our environment clean.”
Another conductor, Blessing Mugovera added, “This is perfect. That she has come here to listen to our concerns means she cares for our welfare. This shows she is a real mother of the nation. She is not a selective mother.
“We were actually shocked when we learnt that she was going to address us, imagine a First Lady interacting with mahwindi, it’s actually a first of its kind.”
From Mai Musodzi Hall, the First Lady proceeded to Stodart Hall where she interacted with a group of anti-litter monitors.
The group has more than 500 members and it’s an all-female group which started in 2006 and strives to make Mbare clean.
The First Lady urged Mbare residents to emulate the work being done by the group which comprises elderly women.
As the national environmental patron, the First Lady pledged to work with the group.
She said through her Angel of Hope Foundation, she was going to initiate income generating projects for the women.