Mixed reactions in Zambia over compulsory garbage fee collection through mobile phones

Source: Xinhua| 2017-09-07 20:10:45|Editor: Zhou Xin
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LUSAKA, Sept. 7 (Xinhua) -- Plans by authorities in Lusaka, the Zambian capital, to introduce a compulsory garbage fee through mobile phone airtime deductions, have sparked mixed feelings from residents.

Lusaka, with a total population of about 2.8 million residents, is reeling with the problem of poor garbage management system, resulting in uncollected garbage lying in various areas.

Many residents in the Zambian capital are reluctant to pay for garbage collection, a situation that has resulted in rampant disposal of waste, especially in residential areas.

City authorities, however, want to change this and have announced plans to compel every resident to pay for garbage collection through airtime deductions.

Its planned implementation is set for next year.

"It is our plan to deduct garbage collection fee and we hope that it yields positive results once implemented," Wilson Kalumba, the mayor of the city said when announcing the plan on his Facebook page.

According to him, Lusaka is one of the bustling cities and fastest growing in the world, with garbage collection and blocked drainages and sewer systems a perennial headache for civic leaders.

Under the proposal, the city authorities are proposing a 10 Zambian Kwacha (about 1.1 U.S. dollars) fee per household per month.

The e-garbage fee collection idea has proven to be effective in keeping cities clean in other countries.

The city authorities are currently engaged in discussions with the country's communication regulator, the Zambia Information and Communications Technology Authority (ZICTA), on how best the idea could be implemented.

But the idea has resulted in mixed reactions from various stakeholders and residents.

The Zambia Society for Public Administration, a professional body for those involved in public administration has vehemently opposed the idea, saying it lacks credibility.

"We want to appeal to people of Lusaka to reject the proposal by the mayor's intention to start collecting garbage levy via the telecoms. We feel that this proposal lacks credibility, merit and should not be supported for any cause," said Kelvin Siasa, the organization's president.

He wondered how families with a large number of people owning mobile phones will be charged the levy, adding that the idea would be unfair for some families.

According to him, the civic leaders should engage citizens and see how best the city could be cleaned up and ensure that there is a proper waste disposal mechanism.

Potipher Tembo, a former deputy mayor of the Zambian capital, said the civic leaders in the city should consult widely with stakeholders because the matter is not an easy issue.

"There is more to this issue than meets the eye and if the council does not engage in wide consultations, it will be a flop. There are many issues that need to be addressed because people are already over-taxed," he said.

While acknowledging that the issue of uncollected garbage was a source of concern especially in peri-urban areas, the former deputy mayor believes that the current civic leaders should not rush to introduce the mandatory garbage fee payment until a clear roadmap is put in place.

Some residents of the city have also reacted differently to the proposal, with some wondering why they could be charged another garbage fee when some private companies were collecting garbage at a fee in some residential areas.

"This is daylight robbery because some of us we are already paying for garbage collection. On the other hand, kids have mobile phones as well so how are they going to reconcile this," Ken Wasa, a 34-year-old Lusaka resident said.

His views have been supported by Castrol Kayaya, another resident of the Zambian capital, who feels that the move is another plan by the civic leaders to raise finances.

"I don't think it is imperative for the council to proceed with such a decision and I am pretty sure that if they consulted us, many people would reject such a proposal which lacks credibility and merit," he said.

But Judith Lengwe has called for a careful analysis of the proposal and that the civic leaders should embark on sensitization programs to educate the residents on the benefits of the new compulsory garbage fee because of the poor reputations councils are known for in the country in management of public resources.

Other residents feel the proposal is welcome and a step in the right direction if properly implemented.

"It's a brilliant and achievable initiative but it's just a matter of sensitizing the masses on the objective and benefits of the concept. Let's continue supporting such progress ideas for the sole purpose of developing our country," said Cleo Phiri, another Lusaka resident.