Why do people litter?

Hawkers at De Villiers Street in the Joburg city centre. The writer says the clean-up operations used draconian measures and applied a broad, heavy-handed approach that robbed traders, even those with permits, of their livelihoods. Picture: Dumisani Sibeko

There is a saying that cleanliness is next to godliness.

We are often taught from an early age that we need to be clean to avoid germs that could cause diseases on our bodies. For example children are told not to play in the dirt or with disposed things because they would catch germs that might be detrimental to their health.

There was a time back in the day when it was nice to walk on the pavements in towns like Bloemfontein, Pretoria and Johannesburg enjoying the glimpse of tall buildings. The streets were clean and you couldn’t find even a piece of paper on the sidewalk but today it is a different story. We have now embraced dirt and filth, not because we want to, but the streets are full of vendors and hawkers coupled with some shady characters who pick-pocket unsuspecting people.

There is a buzz word ‘hustle’ which everyone looks  like is embracing with aplomb, getting up to do something with their lives. It is good that people are embracing their entrepreneurial talents by selling fruits, vegetables, water, cold drinks, repairing shoes, clothes and selling animal heads and the trotters. The economy has slumped and the rate of unemployment has hit the roof as more and more big business does not hire but lay off more workers.

Others even do hair in the streets just in front of restaurants and shops. God knows how people don’t catch diseases from these activities being performed in the streets.

You would consider yourself lucky if you have a gainful job to do and earn a living salary at the end of the month. It is a sad truth that big companies are accumulating oodles of money keeping it for themselves and not re-investing it by starting other business. Many jobs have been casualized as companies don’t want to pay good salaries but the managers and executives of the companies are earning obscene amounts of money while the workers struggle to make ends meet each and every month.

Big retailers such as Woolies, Mass Mart and Shoprite checkers have been accused of exploiting the workforce while the CEO’s are living large, driving high powered engine sports cars that pollute the environment with noise. Such is the sin of Capitalism, the system that seeks to make one person accumulate more wealth at the expense of paying next to nothing salaries to the workers.

 One daily community newspaper in the country uses a lot of Freelancers just to keep the salaries down. This means that the poor would remain poorer and the rich are getting richer as things remain the way they are.

All these big companies tell us that the economy is bad but we see their affiliated companies listing on the stock exchanges all over the world where it is showing that they are making insane amounts of money.

One factor that has seen the rural folk heading towards the big cities is that there is lack of opportunities in the rural places. The infrastructure is none-existent so much that ambitious ones head to the cities where they are awoken rudely that inasmuch as there is huge development, the life is damn difficult in the cities. The city with its bright lights will teach you a hard lesson and if you are not street smart you will end up sleeping in the culverts or pavements wearing plastic blankets for the rest of your days.

The rent and food as well as transport is quiet expensive when you live in a bustling town like Johannesburg. You need to have different streams of income while living in a city otherwise you would struggle for many moons to come.

Unfortunately these are young people who have the potential to be the best that they could be if ever given an opportunity. Some of these young people who cannot be absorbed in the job market become creative by collecting rubbish such as used plastic bottles, cans and many other things that could turn out to be a treasure to them. As the recycling business is taking momentum, dustbins are emptied but the things which are not wanted are scattered all over.

This is despite the fact that the dustbin is there to put things back in if they had been taken out. The vendors too are just nonchalant throwing plastics, boxes and even used water in the street. No wonder the streets are smelling foul. It is not easy to walk in the street because the tables and counters are erected on the sidewalks where people should be walking to do their errands.

This situation has created a haven for criminals as unsuspecting people are pick-pocketed even though the streets are full of CCV cameras that pick up these shenanigans. I have seen numerous videos of these scoundrels who prey on their victims to dispossess of their valuables such as jewelry, cellphones and money.

The windows of the cars are smashed broken by the thugs who the steal things like money and laptops from the cars if the owner had gone for a while to do his or her errands. The view is blocked by the coverings or umbrellas used by the vendors. The vendors provide much needed service in the streets but the way they conduct their business is appalling because they dirty the streets, making the streets look very unsightly.

When you walk in the streets you hear different languages, a factor that makes it difficult for any law enforcement personnel to administer it because there is a barrier of language. For instance if a vendor speaks Portuguese, French or Swahili and you are a Cop well versed in Afrikaans and English how would you effectively communicate with such a vendor. Or the vendor speaks vernacular and a cop doesn’t know vernacular language. Then what?  These vendors come from all walks of life earning a living in the streets but don’t take care of the environment.

The Johannesburg city has employed people who clean the streets by sweeping them and collect the rubbish from the rubbish bins. Even the dumps are collected all the time but the vendors just litter causing pollution in the streets.

Johannesburg Mayor Herman Mashaba is doing a good job by cleaning up the streets but he cannot do it alone, everyone must make sure that their workstations are clean. If one is found or seen littering the streets, the bylaws should take its course. We cannot live in dirty places especially if the vendors are old men and women who should know better.

If you find the place clean, why do you pollute it by littering and throwing things in the streets? Banana peels are dangerous as one could be broken if he or she slips after stepping on it.

A country like Rwanda has been lauded for making Kigali the capital city one of the cleanest city in the Africa. Johannesburg is the melting pot of Africa with impressive roads, building structures and parks. Effort should be made that the city is kept spanking clean by all the inhabitants, despite the fact that most people in streets are from elsewhere in the country and the continent.

Mayor Mashaba needs the support of all the people no matter which political parties they come from because a clean city is good for tourism, business and entertainment. All these activities would make Johannesburg a darling to the world as it is already is but cleanliness should be key priority. Even the striking workers or political parties should stop trashing everything on their way because it would not solve anything if you make the city dirty.

The thieves who steal cables should be dealt harshly too because electricity is affected too. Love your city and keep it clean good people. Stop being lazy and nonchalant.

Sello E Morake is a freelance Journalist, based in Diepkloof in Soweto, Johannesburg. He has been a Journalist for more than 10 years writing for Newspapers such as the now defunct Free State Times, Daily Sun and Dumelang News in various capacities as a Senior Reporter, Sub-editor and Freelancer