South Africa


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By Donette Read Kruger (Author of Zambezi Wind Song)

Every time one pollutes the environment one is contributing positively to polluting one’s own community. Begin simply by chucking ice cream papers, plastic yoghurt cups, iced-lolly ‘condoms’ and juice bottles, or empty cans out of car windows. One popular example of this terrible abuse is the traffic intersection at Samora Machel East and Robert Mugabe Road where there are stacked heaps of trashed cans, bottles and plastics at the apex of where Cresta Lodge and Econet multinationals are based. However, beware, trashing out of bus windows has caused accidents. Surely this act is illegal, though seldom policed anymore?

Zimbabwe’s talented artists contribute greatly to recycling empty aluminum cans into replicas of the country’s wildlife, but did you know that the artists cannot possibly consider using rusty cans? Joanna Selman and Manners Mkuiri at the Chitungwiza Art Centre explained that the cans they use must be in pristine condition. So next time you finish a canned drink, why not place it carefully aside with all your others and quietly hand the bag of empty cans to one of your nearest artist communities instead? In this way you will be supporting the artists of Zimbabwe who struggle for such materials. Gathering rusted cans at the city dump is not their scene!

Unbeknowingly, in turn you might even be contributing to the unemployed brothers of Senegal on Brighton Beach who spend their short summers selling Zimbabwe’s canned wildlife to tourists! They frequently ask me if I know anyone who could access Zimbabwe’s canned wildlife for them. (But it takes money to export and everyone knows that artists like Manners Mkuiri do not have access to that type of funding! Perhaps Trudy Stephenson, Zimbabwe’s own Ambassador in Senegal might know of such a Sponsor?)The Senegal salesmen can easily access South African canned wildlife but their artists do not produce as well a finished article as does any Zimbabwean artist which is why Zimbabwe’s canned wildlife is in such demand. It is perfectly turned out!

In parts of London if you are caught dropping so much as a cigarette stub, there is a £10 fine. In Canada it is $10 a stub. That works well in affluent and busy communities who have jobs, but what about where unemployment is rife? If you are cash-strapped, one famous saying is “There is money in cash!”

Despite alarming tales of thousands unemployed and penniless, our street trash indicates that Zimbabweans are not as cash-strapped or as deprived of luxuries as they make out to be. Some may remember when the pavements and roadsides were free of debris? Then hungry, energetic hawkers were always visible collecting discarded plastic and papers off the streets to cash in at Recycling points. Trash does not indicate poverty, and seldom attracts investors or sponsors as it is an indication of communities turning a blind eye to dirt. “Recycling” had a ring of magic to it in those early days but seems to have lost its luster as fast as the Far East floods local markets with cheap colourful goods.

I asked a white adult male carrying a bag of empty drinks cans over his shoulder while walking the streets of Hove-Brighton why was he collecting empty cans off the pavements and roadside? Why were road-sweepers necessary if he was picking up empty cans all day? “Definitely not!” he said in his Cockney accent, “but I will get a penny a can for this lot!” The Council should be giving him free sacks because he is doing their job for them: but it does mean that for every 500 cans he gets £5! It may not sound a lot of money but those doing this amongst the two million unemployed, it shows you how broke Britain is.

Imagine a group of youngsters all getting together and spending just a week during school holidays in a competition, collecting bags of empty cans and plastic and papers to cash at Recycling points? Yes, they would need adult supervision for transporting their cache of cash, but two adults with a van could provide a driver and a safety officer. Sponsors for fuel, empty bags, drinking water and snacks for this enthusiastic group of young environmentalists would be essential! Recycling could easily provide the youths with enough money to buy a football for their club, or phone cards etc.

But obviously it is not happening because no one is motivated when all they have to do is ask their struggling parents for another $1 for phone cards. (Every noticed that at this juncture an irritated adult is par for the course when begging for just $1?) You seldom see anyone without a cellphone these days and those ‘Time strips’ in Africa are suddenly polluting the earth. Line providers could definitely contribute advertising and fuel to such a clean-up campaign. At a rough guess I think the serial numbers that you log into your phone will give you an indication of just how many paper slips have been distributed throughout Africa to date! What else would those serial numbers indicate?

There are approximately 15 million living in Zimbabwe. Therefore, if each person spends $1/day for Time strips only to discard them as soon as Time is loaded into cellphones, this calculates as 15 million tiny torn strips of paper covering the land every day. Many spend as much as $10 per day. Result? Paperwork, and the rains can no longer seep down through the ground – rain that is meant by Nature to water the roots of the leafy trees under which hard-working and weary vendors establish their POS (Point of Sale) sites from where they hawk this essential product. Rainwater is intended to replenish the water table below; 15 million discarded Time cards daily are just another reason for man-made blocked drains and droughts. One card even finds space to quote scripture texts, whereas it should carry anti-pollution messages! Mother Nature recycles rainfalls, and it seems that as our drinking water is becoming more and more polluted, fresh water is becoming more and more scarce with each season. Years ago it was unheard of to sell bottled water in supermarkets, but today it is much in demand.

Environment clubs in schools are doing their best to educate the next generation in polluting Zimbabwe, but how about you? Have you ever thought that perhaps this is where parents as well as the young and old can monitor one another and police the Environment for the future? If you are old enough to read this article, then you are old enough to do something about it. Or, will you brush the problem aside until another drought, accompanied by cholera and typhoid invade your home?

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