AS the city’s employed residents made their way to work at the crack of dawn, the city’s employees swapped their airconditioned offices for the streets and had rolled up their sleeves and were already hard at work cleaning the city’s streets, led by the Acting City Manager Ms. Nelisiwe Ngcobo on January 9 as part of Operation Mbo.
Speaking about this new campaign to clean up the city and rid itself of the ‘capital of litter’ tag, Ngcobo said this is in response to the complaints and queries from various stakeholders within the city. “The objective of this campaign is to clean up the city following complaints we received from local businessmen but is it not like we were not aware of this challenge.”
She added that there is no use in pointing fingers or leaving the challenge to be resolved by one department because in the end, it is the name of the municipality or the city that is tainted and not that of a department or an employee. In this regard, they are doing all that they can to assist the two business units that are at the forefront of dealing with the litter issue, namely Refuse Removal and Parks.
The Acting City Manager, whose primary portfolio is Community Services, also said that what is key is for the whole city to be clean, including townships and rural areas. She continued by saying that the Central Business District is the focal point of this clean-up because it is the face of Msunduzi.
This is what the Manager in the City Manager’s Office had to say about Operation Mbo: “Today, we are prepared to dive deep and get dirty together with all the managers of the various departments. To me, Operation Mbo means that everybody needs to come together to make sure that we clean up our city so that we can all pride ourselves in being residents of Msunduzi,” said Ms Jackson.
Head of the city’s Human Settlement business unit Mr. Bongumusa Zondi said he had been yearning to be part of an initiative to clean-up the city. “My concern was that the city is not as clean as it is supposed to be and this put a lot of pressure on me as an employee of the municipality because how do I walk through the streets and still hold my head up high in such filth.
Road & Transportation’s Mr. Wiseman Thabethe said being involved with Operation Mbo will make them better understand the workings of other departments and business units where they do not necessarily work. “This initiative will restore the city’s dignity as the municipality has plans to maintain it as a clean city. We will unblock water pipes and rid manholes of sand that was pumped into them by the summer rains over the festive season,” said Thabethe.
A visibly surprised young lady from Willowfontein by the name of Mpume Zondi saw scores of municipal employees scour the city streets for trash said she was surprised as she did not see them as people who could roll up their sleeves and clean the streets but this showed that the littered city streets were a sore point to me. “How what they are doing will assist with is when visitors and tourists come to the city, they will find it in a squeaky clean condition and if I had the time, I would join the clean-up so that we live in a clean city.”
As the wave of council employees swept through the streets of the CBD, a man was seen fetching water from a fire hydrant on Pietermaritz Street and he happened to be a street-person. He said he made use of the facility in order to earn a living and survive. “A big water container costs R8 each and these are in demand amongst taxi drivers for washing their taxis,” said Mr. Xaba. He added that when they go to fetch water, they will need to go and secure buyers at taxi ranks so that they can earn their money.
For safe-storage, they leave their water containers in man-holes, which is a detriment as this has the potential to black the manholes. When quizzed, Xaba said he had never thought that their water containers would block the man-wholes and underground pipes. “When the rain comes, we take them out of man-holes for fear of being stolen,” he added.
Responding to Mr. Xaba’s actions, Ms. Jackson said what she sees is an entrepreneur. “What he is doing does no break by municipal bylaws. However, he does need to realise that his life and those of others are very important so needs to realise that as he trades, the water which he sells is clean and can be consumed by people. Secondly, he needs to ensure that his water bottles do not become trash and block manholes,” added Ms. Jackson.
Metered-Taxi driver Andile Mahlaba was very impressed with this self-less act by the council’s employees: “At the ranks where we await customers, weed had continually been in the way although I must say that there wasn’t much in terms of papers but this initiative will assist us not only as taxi drivers but also as drivers generally. We will not have to driving ducking and diving away from obstacles. I see this as showing a lot of concern by the city’s employees for the city’s residents,” said Mr. Mahlaba.
Msunduzi Pietermaritzburg Tourism Association’s Zama Nxasana said this will have many positive spin-offs, especially in the sector that they are custodians of. “The city’s cleanliness will obviously make tourists amenable to visiting the city and they will have a very positive image of the city. While we often get complaints from visitors and tourists, I am certain that this will have very positive spin-offs for the city in terms of numbers,” concluded Ms. Nxasana.