HarareÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s garbage nightmare
Unknown to the innocent boys and girls are the attendant dangers to the presence of rotting uncollected and burning garbage.
Little Johnny joins his friends along 120th Street in Highfield near Mutasa Primary School and immediately begins to "unpack" a smouldering mound of garbage in search of toys and any other items of amusement.
The same act is replayed in almost all high-density suburbs across the city everyday as children plod through choking smoke from burning garbage.
The risk of contracting diseases looms large.
The loud cries for help by distressed residents who have been made to literally accept living in the midst of garbage have not been heeded. In Highfield, from a distance some of the garbage dumps resemble dwalas and in all this the Harare City Council is the chief culprit.
Every month, City Fathers demand refuse collection fees from residents for a service that they do not provide. Director of waste management, or as some residents now call it "worst management", Mr Dombo Chibanda recently told a visiting Munich City delegation that Harare was failing to cope with its responsibilities of collecting garbage.
"We cannot cope with the situation. On the streets we are using tree branches to sweep. The city is not in a healthy position to undertake cleaning," he said.
Mr Chibanda painted a grim picture of the state of affairs in his department, where the bulk of trucks are grounded, making it impossible to collect garbage.
But none of those explanations do anything to ease the anxiety of residents who live in fear of disease outbreaks. Sources at the Kelvin South waste management depot in Graniteside confirm that some of the grounded trucks have running engines and only require tyres, batteries, clutch cables or other minor mechanical attention.
"Some of these vehicles require between US$100 and US$1 000 to get them back on the road. It costs in excess of over US$100 000 to acquire one truck," said an engineer at the workshop.
The city needs between 45 and 50 refuse compactors but has only 10, while out of the six skip-bin trucks only one is operational. The city requires 12 tipper trucks, but has none that are working. The list of unavailable equipment is endless.
While City Fathers sit in their offices and issue all manner of statements to explain their failures, the dangers of a cholera recurrence in Harare lurk around the corner as the rainy season fast approaches.
The spirit, drive and endeavour to remove the garbage just seems to be absent at Town House. For them, it is business as usual. Waste managers get into their offices daily to hold meetings, sip tea, make phone calls and then at the end of the day drive home and tell their families how hard they have worked.
Councillors are also to blame. They give assignments to management but fail to allocate resources for these things to be done. Councillors only attend meetings to endorse what management wants.
Very rarely do they bring in their own motions and agendas to council meetings. Admittedly the city centre is swept on a daily basis while the major thoroughfares leading into the Central Business District are also cleaned. But — and this is a big but — the people do not stay in the city centre. Cholera begins in the suburbs.
Mrs Evelyn Tinarwo of Highfield is not a happy mother. Her children, like little Johnny, know no other playing ground other than the heaps of uncollected garbage.
She feels the city should be held accountable for any diseases that occur as a result of uncollected garbage. She suggested that if the council trucks were grounded, then preparations to hire plant and equipment from private companies should be made.
While the Environmental Management Authority has fined Harare for not collecting garbage it should even go further and penalise the city for burning uncollected refuse.