NKOLE NKOLE, Lusaka
LUSAKA city centre is clean but the question on everyone’s mind is how long it will stay in this state.
The clean-up exercise of the city began just before the start of the new year and following the outbreak of cholera in Lusaka in October.
President Edgar Lungu directed all three wings of the defence force to join the Ministry of Health and the Lusaka City Council (LCC) in escalated efforts to contain the spread of cholera.
In the last few years, streets outside Kulima Bus Station had become lined with second- hand clothing stalls as well as fruit and vegetable stands.
Their appearance became such a common feature on the streets that residents were shocked to see how decent the city centre appeared following the suspension of street vending around Lusaka city.
Even Cairo Road, like all other streets in the CBD had become an eyesore after vendors took over the pavements and decorated the front of retail stores with their merchandise.
The last time the city witnessed such a clean-up was in 2007, when Sylvia Masebo, who was Minister of Local Government spearheaded a ‘Keep Zambia Clean and Healthy’ campaign with the support of the Levy Mwanawasa-led government.
The campaign organised various activities to promote a clean and healthy living environment. Soweto market was cleaned and the minister of Transport and Communications at the time, Sarah Sayifwanda, worked with bus drivers and conductors to get public buses cleaned.
Other ministers from key ministries also participated in the clean-up by taking up the exercise at different institutions. Their example was meant to inculcate a culture of cleanliness among residents and to show that clean habits should be everyone’s priority and responsibility regardless of their background.
Institutions like the Bank of Zambia for instance, were part of the campaign to demonstrate that cleanliness is a corporate responsibility.
The 2007 clean-up also involved the removal of vehicles which had been in accidents from police stations and a tree planting exercise in Lusaka was launched during the same period.
Nearly 20 years ago, Patricia Nawa was elected as the first female mayor of Lusaka city. She was the city’s 17th mayor and her reign is still referenced occasionally after her success at ridding Lusaka’s streets of vendors for her entire tenure.
Less than two months after her election in February 1999, a combined team of the Zambia police and LCC destroyed the make-shift wooden and cardboard stalls that were used by street vendors in the city centre.
Then, the exercise was conducted at night and the unsuspicious vendors woke up to find their stalls had been taken apart leaving stacks of cardboard and wood littered along the streets.
Cleanliness is important for the city of Lusaka not just to control the spread of diseases but also to leave a good first impression on outsiders.
Since the outbreak, different corporate sponsors have come on board and provided trash cans where the city’s dirt is being thrown but residents are already concerned that despite the bins filling up, there is no one to collect them once full.
Additionally, much of the waste that was removed from drainages by residents with the supervision of the army in the past two weeks still remains uncollected in different areas. The waste heaps remain piled on the side of the roads, awaiting collection by the council.
Residents are also underwhelmed by the Mayor of Lusaka, Wilson Kalumba, whom they accuse of lacking serious commitment in a time of crisis.
Recently, he was quoted in the media as saying he does not work to please cameras.
“I’m there. What they [people] are missing is that there is a multi-sectorial task force headed by the Ministry of Health. If the mayor hasn’t spoken, the minister has spoken, you just listen to him. You want also the mayor’s voice? I follow what’s happening, I attend meetings, basically I’m part of the multi-sectorial task force. The only thing is that media has to be managed. And what we have agreed as a multi-sectorial task force at the Ministry of Health is to leave it the media function,” he said.
Mr Kalumba said this week that the street vendors who have temporarily been stopped from trading should wait for the government to allocate them trading space as “it is a challenging time for the nation.”
The mayor explained this week that 4000 trading spaces will be allocated to the street vendors who have no space and the government has put in place measures to ensure that the vendors who have no trading space at City Market will get space at BH Soweto by the end of January.
Mr Kalumba also clarified that the Government is working on finishing the new Simon Mwewa market which is likely to be completed in the range of four months and will accommodate a good number of street vendors.
Overall, the suggestion is that more remedial long term measures are necessary to deal with street vending and to keep the city clean for good.