NATHANIEL LEE | Education drive needed to keep Johannesburg clean

Filthy city a dreadful turn-off for international tourists

According to the author, Pikitup, Joburg's official waste management service provider, needs to jack up its act and root out the problem of uncollected waste, which is a hazard and an eyesore.
According to the author, Pikitup, Joburg's official waste management service provider, needs to jack up its act and root out the problem of uncollected waste, which is a hazard and an eyesore.
Image: Papi Morake

East or West, home is best, is a common saying to express affinity to one’s hometown. Home refers to a place where one lives permanently, especially as a member of a family or household with a deeper meaning as a safe haven and a comfort zone. It is a place to live with our families and pets and enjoy with friends. A place to build memories as well as a way to build future wealth, and more significantly, a place where we can truly be ourselves.

I found myself seized by such sentimentally upon a recent visit to Johannesburg, a city I consider my home. Walking down memory lane with an acquaintance, we reminisced about the olden days when the Golden City used to be one of the most prestigious cities in the world, with its high-rise buildings and immaculate streets.

We recalled the old Carlton Centre with its Panorama, the tallest building in Africa which offers visitors an astounding view of the city from the 50th floor. We harked back to the days of the Colloseum in Kruis Street, which hosted local and international artists such as Isaac Hayes, Millie Jackson, Ray Charles, Tina turner and defunct local Afro-pop group Harari.

Those were the good old days when Jozi was a clean city compared with a filthy slum it has degenerated into. The current state of Johannesburg leaves much to be desired, with littered streets and piles of garbage at corners and traffic lights the order of the day.

The reality is that in the morning, the situation is comparatively better than in the afternoon after the wanton littering has taken place. Some will even blame illegal immigrants for the state of filth, which is far fetched. The state of filth represents a direct threat to the tourism industry and will certainly serve as a disincentive for potential investment and much-needed job creation.

The culture of littering is also costly in terms of public health because where there is litter, there is filth, and where there is filth, there is disease. There is a need for political will to eradicate the problem of littering through educating the public about the importance of keeping our environment clean.

A mindset and attitudinal change is essential towards turning the situation around. There is a dire need for cleanliness to be placed firmly on the public agenda. The habit of cleanliness should be inculcated in children from an early age starting at our homes to schools and continue for life.

The saying that cleanliness is next to godliness should be given effect through campaigns that seek to maintain our communities clean. This should not only be the responsibility of government but an active citizens’ initiative. Cleanliness is a basic necessity similar to shelter, water and food. Schools should teach environmental cleanliness, which would foster respect towards the environment in the minds of the pupils. Cleanliness can be maintained by not littering and dissuading others from this abominable habit.

Communities should be urged not to use plastic bags and encouraged to use biodegradable materials. Schools should serve as environmental champions to promote a healthy regard for our surroundings. Keeping public place clean should receive equal priority to healthy habits such as washing hands before and after meals, brushing of teeth twice daily and bathing.

It is no coincidence that the Scandanavian countries, which consistently top the World Happiness Index, are relatively litter-free. Pikitup, the city’s official waste management service provider, also needs to jack up its act and root out the problem of uncollected waste, which becomes a health hazard and an eyesore.

There is also a need for cooperation between Pikitup and the Johannesburg Metro Police Department to ensure that by-laws are enforced and that those who violate these are prosecuted and penalised. Schools are favourably placed to bring sanitation issues into the limelight by partnering the government in the fight to eradicate grime from our communities.

We cannot allow our beloved city to wither away in filth. We need every citizen to put a shoulder to the wheel to brighten every corner where they are. As SA’s economic hub, the rehabilitation of Johannesburg to its former prestige can serve as a springboard towards the restoration of the entire country.

Would you like to comment on this article?
Register (it's quick and free) or sign in now.

Speech Bubbles

Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.