Turn garbage into the foundation of a brighter future
GARBAGE and filth litter the streets of South Africa. It is a national disgrace which appears to receive no attention whatever from those entrusted to run local government. Instead, for example, of cleaning up the once pristine Rivonia Drive in Sandton, the councillors and officials of Johannesburg's Eastern Metropolitan Substructure spend their time threatening and bullying the ratepayers of the area.
Crime is another national disgrace which, at least, receives wide media attention and pious statements of intent from government. However, perhaps an attack on litter would be a start to what worked so well for New York City, where the technique was called the "broken window" approach. In terms of this, minor crimes are addressed quickly and effectively by the justice system which leads to caution on the part of the criminal class, greater confidence in the law enforcers and, ultimately, a sharp reduction in serious crime.
In the state of Texas if you so much as flip a cigarette butt out of your car window and are spotted by a Texas Ranger or city traffic cop the fine is $500 for the first offence and the matter is taken seriously by all concerned. If you spit on the street in China and are apprehended the penalties are severe. Now that we are going to have diplomatic relations with this country perhaps they can assist us by sending over some of their experts in public cleanliness and order.
Along Eloff Street Extension in Johannesburg the gutters are piled high with refuse while the numerous and conveniently placed concrete garbage containers are tipped over by vandals. Durban's beach front resembles a huge refuse dump and along the coast cans, broken bottles and other debris are strewn about. Alexandra surely rivals anywhere in the world for litter per head of population.
It is all dangerous, unsanitary, unsightly and a sad commentary on the public spirit of our people. It is also completely unnecessary. It warrants urgent action and a lead should be given by the national government which must urge those at the local level to address this issue. Perhaps a start should be made with the ubiquitous plastic bag. The image of a plastic bag snagged on a fence and fluttering in the breeze should be part of the national flag. Some of the major chain stores in the US long ago stopped providing plastic bags for their customers and have replaced them with biodegradable brown paper sacks. Perhaps the lead could be given here by the likes of Pick 'n Pay, the OK Bazaars and Woolworths. Central government might think up some incentives for the chains to replace plastic bags with brown paper versions.
Another approach would be to pay people to collect garbage and deliver it to a central point. SA's army of private security workers was the market's answer to rising crime. God knows what the position would be without them. Similarly, with proper planning assisted by government at all levels, unemployed people could make themselves useful and earn money by collecting litter. Frequently in the US one spots people armed with large sacks collecting tin cans and other items which they then sell to commercial collectors of garbage. Waste disposal is a big industry and waste itself has many uses, including landfill and the generation of energy.
We could start with the unofficial parking attendants, themselves generators of litter as they sit on pavements between assignments. Should they be encouraged to collect litter (in sacks provided by local authorities at a nominal cost) and deliver it to convenient drop-off points, they would earn money and render a most important civil service.
How about some action and imagination from our governors for a change? Instead of whining about our dreadful past let's build a brighter future of safe neighbourhoods and clean streets with opportunities for our desperate army of unemployed to earn something instead of nothing, in the process making themselves useful and gaining a sense of selfworth through honest endeavour.