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By Martin Williams

Councillor at City

Let’s talk trash with Herman Mashaba

The mayor wants community involvement in regular monthly cleanups, and the response from residents has been inspiring so far.

What, for you, was the best news of the week? Surely it was exhilarating to watch the Lions, coming from behind, roaring into the Super Rugby final.

Indeed, what could be better, unless you want to talk rubbish. Seriously, let’s talk trash. They say a new broom sweeps clean.

On several occasions since being sworn in, Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba has shown he intends to clean up the city, in more ways than one.

In addition to corruption-busting, he has led anti-litter drives in the CBD, Lenasia and elsewhere. Residents know he means business.

And the enthusiastic response to his call for a volunteer campaign could be the most encouraging development for a long time.

For some of us, anyway. Mashaba says he is “left humbled by the messages of support, offers of assistance and commitments to be involved in this programme”.

“In my view, it speaks to the inspiring attitudes of the people of the city, and their commitment to be part of change.”

Positive social media reaction to this campaign has been astonishing.

It is clear that, despite legitimate complaints about the billing crisis and other problems, there is a groundswell of people who want to help make things better.

People are keen to roll up their sleeves and get stuck in. Rubbish, litter, garbage, waste – all that stuff is core to fixing South Africa’s biggest city.

If we can change attitudes to waste, among rich and poor, across all sectors of society, the task will be so much easier.

There’s considerable research on attitudes to waste and the environment in South Africa. Inevitably, our apartheid past plays a role, which can’t be wished away.

It’s part of our history. There are litterbugs in all walks of life. Ironically, offenders include some who make a meagre living from garbage collection.

I say this after visiting sites where trolley-pushing waste-pickers separate material which they can sell, and discard the rest. An education/incentive scheme would make a difference.

Mashaba’s inspiration for a sustained cleanup campaign derives from a visit to the Rwandan capital, Kigali, where on the last Saturday of every month, residents commit time to projects aimed at improving public spaces.

Of course, Rwanda and South Africa are quite different. Although both countries have violent pasts, our 1994 “rainbow moment” coincided with the slaughter of about 800 000 in bloody conflict between Hutus and Tutsis in Rwanda.

While South Africa is listed by the UK Economist Intelligence Unit as a “flawed democracy”, Rwanda is labelled “authoritarian”.

There is an element of compulsion in the Kigali cleanups. Such an approach is not feasible in Egoli. Nor will it be necessary.

We know already that the idea is a winner. We know that people care, especially about their neighbourhoods.

Mashaba wants community involvement in regular monthly cleanups. More details will be available at the campaign launch in Yeoville on August 14.

This is not about doing the job of Pikitup, or removing the income sources of waste-pickers. It’s about the city’s residents having pride, like winning Lions.

DA city councillor for Joburg Martin Williams

DA city councillor for Joburg Martin Williams