Dear Chairperson of the National Coronavirus Command Council
CRITICAL IMPORTANCE OF ENVIRONMENTAL CLEANLINESS AND HEALTH DURING COVID-19 CRISIS AND LOCKDOWN
As I stated at the Union Buildings on 22 March 2020, when the President and some of us as political leaders addressed the nation, the United Democratic Movement (UDM) believes that in order for South Africa to succeed in combating COVID-19, our plan should be guided by discipline, clean environment, speed and control.
Even though all the other legs are vital, the UDM believes that a clean environment is of paramount importance. For, whether one lives in the rural villages, townships, informal settlements, cities, towns and even the leafy suburbs, the phenomenon of littering and dumping can be seen all over.
As we know, the socioeconomic impacts of a dirty and foul environment run abound. Littering and dumping can promote the transmission of disease and in particular, for example, tyres and containers are perfect for collecting water and provide ideal places for mosquitos to breed, disease carrying rats multiply in these environs and contaminated medical waste can spread diseases.
To compound matters, there is already anecdotal evidence that rats are becoming a problem where countries have imposed a Coronavirus lockdown as, for instance, restaurants abandon activity and people leave garbage bags out in the open, which attract rats. Now that the streets are empty of people, rats have come from their hiding places and move around with ease.
Waste management in this critical period of our nation’s health should be on all our minds, but especially on that of government. As an essential service, government cannot drop this ball.
However, it is not only incumbent on government to do something about environmental health and waste management. We therefore call on the National Coronavirus Command Council to direct our nation to de-litter and clean their environs as a matter of urgency.
Shop owners must clear packaging and other waste materials from the backs of their shops and alleyways. Vehicle drivers, especially those in the public transport industry, must ensure that passengers do not throw garbage out of car, bus, taxi and train windows. Factory managers and owners must urgently clear dump sites on their properties.
Most importantly, each individual person must take responsibility for his/her actions and surroundings, and should stop this mentality of thinking it’s someone else’s problem or that it isn’t a problem at all. As from now on, anyone seen littering or throwing out things from a vehicle window, must be stopped and made to pick up his/her garbage. We need to instil a new culture of tidiness and personal environmental responsibility.
Unfortunately littering and dumping sites have scarred our environmental landscape for decades and the mess has been building up. In order to help government to catch-up and level the ground, so to speak, the Council may want to appeal to truck-owners and construction companies to make their equipment available to reinforce municipalities in dealing with this problem, thus embarking on a massive 21-day clean-up exercise.
If our proposal is accepted, ideally speaking, one of the unintended consequences of this Coronavirus lockdown could be a cleaner South Africa.
The UDM would like to take this opportunity to wish upon the President and the National Coronavirus Command Council the strength and stamina required to see South Africa through this crisis. God bless us all.
Mr Bantu Holomisa, MP