JANET Munoli has completed her first marathon - braving the scorching heat of Windhoek's Otjomuise to keep the area clean.
By Tuyeimo Haidula
It is not a real marathon, but she calls it that. Munoli works for Otjomuise Cleaning Services. Her company is one of 19 ward contractors operating in all suburbs to keep the city, which is home to about 400 000, clean.
Windhoek earlier ranked as the cleanest city in Africa, losing the title to Rwanda’s Kigali, which won an international award for its cleanliness in 2011.
Municipality spokesperson Lydia Amutenya said the city is committed to getting the title back. This will, however, be a challenge, with the constant growth of informal settlements.
The solid waste management activities are funded through waste disposal tariffs, depending on quantity and type of waste, payable through the utilities bill monthly. The total annual solid waste management 2015/16 budget stands at around N$150 million, of which N$39 million is for capital and N$108 million for operational expenses.
Sweat from the heat of the day streams down Munoli’s face. She is struggling to collect toilet paper scattered all around the area and left by residents when they responded to the call of nature the previous night.
Improving sanitation in the informal settlements has proven to be one of Windhoek’s greatest challenges. The people living in these areas suffer the indignity of defecating in the open.
Munoli carries a stick with toilet paper hanging on it, and drops it in the black plastic bag at the edge of the road.
She said the municipality’s efforts to address this problem have had little success. Although toilets are built in the area, without adequate motivation to use them, people often continued to adhere to centuries-old practices and abandoned the new toilets. She said those residing far from the toilets are also not motivated to go and use them because when it is dark, it is dangerous as there is no electricity in the area.
Munoli said another challenge is when people argue with those collecting the waste.
“They will approach me, asking for the black bags, but at times I only have enough to collect the trash. This makes them angry. Even now, one man almost beat me up for refusing to give it to him. I stand close to the road, just in case they attack me,” she said.
Munoli said in her area, she tries to collect the rubbish two times a day to have less work the following day. She said they give each house one bag a week. She advised that they should rather collect the rubbish at one spot to make their job easier when they collect it the following day.
Liselothe Zaaruka has resided in Otjomuise for two years, and applauds the cleaning services company for their hard work and “working around the clock to keep the area clean”.
“They provide good services, despite persistent littering from the residents. They also provide us with bags, which they hide under your door or tie on the gate if you are not at home,” she noted.
Zaaruka said people should learn to keep Namibia clean.
“Collect rubbish as instructed, and dump at the correct dumping sites”, she urged.
Paulus Amukwaya, the owner of Otjomuise Cleaning Services, said they buy about 30 000 black bags a month for the area his company is responsible for. Amukwaya said 22 000 bags are used in informal areas, and the remaining bags used for formal areas because the latter dump in skip containers.
“People who live in informal settlements have a low level of understanding on waste management. They put everything together, making it difficult to sort out,” he said, adding that waste management education is definitely needed in these areas.
Amukwaya also said at times, they find someone dumping outside his or her house. He said if they see the culprits, they talk to them and advise them.
“We supply them with bags every week, which we place under their door or tie to the gate if no one is home. But some women use it to prevent bedwetting by placing it between the sheets and mattresses, while children use it to play with kites,” he lamented.
Amukwaya said every day after they had cleaned up, people immediately come and dump rubbish again.
“It is now 11h30, but if you come at 14h00, it will be dirty again. People are lazy, and they do not want to put things in the bags. Some close the yard and we cannot get in, even when we tell them we come as early as seven (so) they should keep the rubbish bags outside,” he continued.
Amukwaya said the biggest polluters are panel beaters, and women who collect cattle heads.
The city also leads a mayoral campaign annually, with the recent one having been in Khomasdal North, 7de Laan and 8ste Laan behind Otjomuise.
Amutenya said the campaign’s objective is to encourage residents to take responsibility for the waste they generate.
“Companies also partake in this exercise, either physically or through various supportive means such as sponsorships, and this shows that we all want to be in a clean environment,” she noted.
Amutenya said the city continues to do its best in educating residents about how to manage solid waste. Although there is visible progress and a sense of responsibility from some residents, others are not adhering to the solid waste rules and regulations.
“Residents need to understand that having a clean environment has a lot of benefits, not only that your well-being is guaranteed because you live in a clean environment, but it also improves the socio-economic growth of the city and country at large,” she said.
The illegal dumping of waste must be reported to the City of Windhoek at telephone numbers 290 3111 / 3110.
By Tuyeimo Haidula
The Namibian (Namibia)