HARARE – The Daily News caught up with City of Harare spokesperson Michael Chideme so that he could address some of the residents’ concerns that include the vendors issue, mushika-shika menace, poor service delivery and council’s salary backlog. Below are excepts from the interview.
Q: Has refuse collection improved in Harare?
A: We are still facing challenges and our refuse trucks are old, hence constant breakdowns. But we are doing all we can with those trucks still on the road and we have actually started having morning and afternoon refuse collection shifts so as to cover as many areas as possible.
And because of these challenges, we are urging residents to start sorting waste at source, some can be turned into manure compost for gardens, some can sort the plastics and sell or reuse them.
There is money in waste and there are companies buying litter. For instance, beer cans are being sold to South African companies that produce solar panels.
The city’s environment should be everyone’s business and I am saying we should have a responsibility as we own the environment that surrounds us. Our motto should be “My City Your City”.
Q: But local tourism officials are saying Harare is the dirtiest city in Southern Africa.
A: I think it is unfortunate that such a statement came from those who are responsible for promoting and marketing Harare as a destination.
Yes, I agree that we are not yet there but we are rated highly and we are doing our best. We are not the worst for sure.
Q: What about concerns of council failing to even cut grass?
A: Cutting of grass is an ongoing process and we are sorry to residents who have been attacked because of the tall grass.
But the issue is when is it right to start cutting the grass — as it starts growing or when it is grown, because if we cut it while it is still coming out it will fuel its growth. And we are saying why not cut the grass when it’s a bit grown so that we cut it once and for all.
Q: The issue of vendors, has council given up because the streets are impassable as we speak?
A: The issue of vendors is multi- prolonged. I believe that if people stop buying from vendors then they will not come into town, but because Harare residents are buying from them, then they have reason to continue.
It is the same with the mushika-shika, if people stop using them then they will move out of the city.
The residents are aiding both the vendors and mushika-shika.
And we will not leave them do what they want on the streets and very soon you will find out why because we will be launching a massive blitz to remove them off the pavements.
Those pavements are for people to walk and do window shopping.
Q: And what happened to the vendors’ stalls you erected, are they functional now?
A: There seem to be a resistance to using the new designated vendors’ stalls but we are still urging them to move to those places because sooner some people will take them up.
There also seems to be a lack of awareness on the part of vendors because they are the ones who should popularise the new places, they should create brands and markets.
When Mupedzanhamo was established people said no one will go there because it is far, but there are people who believed in that space and they branded and marketed it — now it is always packed.
The stalls at Coca-Cola could easily be branded because that place is already known by people, so are other areas.
Q: But the vendors are saying those places have no toilets and shades.
A: Are there any toilets where they are operating from right now, along the streets. Are there any shades where they are operating now? The vendors should not give excuses just for the sake of it.
We will not allow the city’s pavements to degenerate into levels were people cannot walk along the pavements.
Q: There has been an outcry over the mushika-shika which is causing havoc within the city – how long will council just watch as order continues to deteriorate?
A: We are revisiting our transport plans and inviting investors to come and provide mass transport so that we can even phase out the kombis.
We are not failing to manage mushika-shika because each day we impound 100 or even 200 kombis, but our main worry is the rate at which they are being imported.
Everyday there are new ones and all this is because it has become big business for others who are bringing them into the country and hiring drivers who will own them after they pay say $4 000.
So you find the hired drivers racing to raise the payment for the car so he owns it.
Q: What happens to those mushika-shika you impound because we always see them back on the streets?
A: We charge the owner so he/she pays a fine, but we have since realised that the driver has been reckless because this is not affecting him, so we now want to arrest the drivers and charge them instead of the owners.
Q: But there are some who say you are reluctant to remove these mushika-shika from the streets because they are owned by policemen and municipal council officials.
A: I think these are just allegations and we are saying those who have the evidence should bring it to us.
Q: There have been concerns over your car clamping fee of $56, are these not too high?
A: Those fees are justified if we are to maintain order in the city. It is the only way we can deal with the mushika-shika which likes parking everywhere.
Q: The city is operating without a substantive Mayor and Town Clerk, are you managing?
A: Yes, the city is managing because the people in acting capacities know their roles and they know that they are being monitored. So it is business as usual.
Q: There are some who believe political bickering between the MDC dominated council and Zanu PF Local Government minister Saviour Kasukuwere is slowing progress in the city, is this true?
A: I would like to say that the city’s service delivery does not discriminate to say this road or street light benefits supporters of a particular party. Service delivery is apolitical.
Q: The city has been accused of being insensitive as it shuts down water on those not paying their bills, is your action justified?
A: Yes, it is justified and very necessary because people have the assumption that things from council are for free.
Why should people consume water for free? The reason why they are complaining means that there is water running in their taps and someone is pumping that water — so why should they get it for free?
Water is just like any commodity and I do not understand it because no one commands you to pay for bread or sugar — you just pay on your own. If you do not pay for sugar or bread you won’t get it, but people want free water from council.