Former Minister of Education, Sport and Culture of Zimbabwe David Coltart has called on Bulawayo residents to clean streets.

Posting on Facebook, Coltart said Bulawayo’s streets and open areas have become a disgrace as the amount of litter is growing daily.

He said: “It is as if we as Bulaweans simply dont care any longer about where we live. We have almost given up and with an air of resignation blame those who throw plastic bottles away after using them. As a result no one does anything about it.

“Gandhi once said – be the change you want to see in the world. That applies to us. It is time to stop blaming others and time for us to do something ourselves about it.

Coltart said people should adopt tidying up their homes and streets to stop the rot around the city of Bulawayo.

“So here is the challenge:
– each of us needs to tidy up outside our own home;
– each of us needs to tidy up outside your own business or where you work;
– encourage your neighbours to do the same, not in an intimidating or condescending way, but rather by example”.

“Recently a destitute young man came to our gate asking for money or food. I decided to employ him to clean up the three streets leading to our home from the Burnside road. We gave him black litter bags to place all the litter in. He worked diligently over some 4 days and cleaned up a massive amount of litter. Frustratingly of course as he toiled others came behind him dropping plastic bottles but our streets are greatly improved.

This past week we have got him to start on the street around our daughter’s home in another suburb and he is transforming that area, cleaning up years of litter.

The City Council refuse removal trucks have been happy to away tens of bags.

The point of this blog is certainly not to sing my own praises. The point is to encourage all of us to do something to stop the rot. Most people cannot afford to hire extra people to clean up our streets. But all of us can afford to spend a little bit of time cleaning up outside our own homes and businesses. Imagine if every person decided to clean up outside their own homes – the city would be transformed within a week!

In the past year or so an enterprising young man, Tonderai Shoko, has got a team of people together to clean up particular areas, which is an outstanding effort but inevitably there is a limit to what he and his patriotic helpers can do. That is where I come back to the need for a collective effort. If we are to succeed all of us need to stop complaining and get on with the small areas we are responsible for.

There is one other challenge – namely educating people not to litter. It needs education rather than coercion. We all need to speak to our children and those we are able to influence not to litter. There are of course those who dump litter on an industrial scale who need to be reported and prosecuted. But most litter comes from poor people who have nowhere else to leave the plastic bottle they have just used.

But we must not get distracted by those who will continue to litter. We need to develop a new culture of pride in our city and that starts with those of us who have the capacity to start cleaning up wherever we can.

I suspect that if a critical mass of us start doing that we will have a disproportionate influence on our city and return it to a home we can take pride in. And none of this takes much money – all it takes is time and a bit of exercise, which we all need anyway.