Financial Mail - - FEATURE -

In post-geno­cide Rwanda, pres­i­dent Paul Kagame in­sti­tuted the prac­tice of manda­tory com­mu­nal labour to en­hance po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic development. This fol­lowed the killing of hundreds of thou­sands of Rwan­dans in the 1990s.

Since 2007, Umu­ganda Day has taken place ev­ery last Saturday of the month, and it is seen as one of the rea­sons why Rwanda is hailed as an ex­tremely clean coun­try.

Ac­cord­ing to Rwan­da­pe­dia, which seeks to tell the story of Rwanda’s development and is funded by the African Development Bank, Rwan­dans be­tween 18 and 65 must par­tic­i­pate in Umu­ganda, which can roughly be trans­lated as “com­ing to­gether in com­mon pur­pose to achieve an out­come”.

It is es­ti­mated that close to 80% of Rwan­dans take part in monthly com­mu­nity work, through which cit­i­zens have built schools, med­i­cal cen­tres and even hy­dro­elec­tric plants.

Jo­han­nes­burg mayor Her­man Mashaba vis­ited this small African coun­try three years ago with his wife Con­nie, when he was still a busi­ness­man and not yet for­mally in­volved in pol­i­tics. He was, he says, “so im­pressed by the clean­li­ness of the coun­try”.

“Peo­ple shared with us their monthly clean­ing cam­paign on ev­ery last Saturday of the month, when ev­ery­body, in­clud­ing the pres­i­dent, cleaned their neigh­bour­hood,” Mashaba tells the Fi­nan­cial Mail, ex­plain­ing the ori­gin of the idea for Jo­han­nes­burg’s new monthly cleanup cam­paign, A Re Se­bet­seng (“Let’s work”).

On the last Saturday in Septem­ber, Mashaba got his hands dirty in the first vol­un­tary cleanup of the cam­paign, which is based on the Rwan­dan model.

A Re Se­bet­seng, of­fi­cially launched in Au­gust, is de­scribed as a ward-based clean­ing ini­tia­tive that will en­hance the city’s R50m in­vest­ment in Pik­itup for a third clean­ing shift in the city, the mayor said at the launch.

He added that, as part of the cam­paign, Pik­itup will start a pro­gramme of en­gag­ing with schools and pri­vate stake­hold­ers to get learn­ers in­volved in pre­serv­ing the en­vi­ron­ment.

Later in Au­gust, a del­e­ga­tion from the city — led by Nico de Jager, Joburg MMC for en­vi­ron­ment & in­fra­struc­ture ser­vices, and in­clud­ing rep­re­sen­ta­tives from Pik­itup — at­tended a prac­tice study of solid-waste man­age­ment in the Rwan­dan cap­i­tal, Ki­gali.

Mashaba said Joburg would em­u­late some of the prac­tices ob­served in Ki­gali. These in­clude: re­vis­ing waste man­age­ment by­laws to, among oth­ers, make sepa­ra­tion of waste at source manda­tory; putting in place ed­u­ca­tion and aware­ness cam­paigns and stake­holder in­volve­ment pro­grammes; and de­vel­op­ing part­ner­ship guide­lines to in­volve stake­hold­ers as ac­tive par­tic­i­pants in im­ple­ment­ing a new ap­proach to waste man­age­ment.

“Based on re­ports from the del­e­ga­tion, the suc­cess of Umu­ganda lies not only in a sense of im­mense pride that each ci­ti­zen has for his or her di­rect en­vi­ron­ment, com­mu­nity and city, but also in con­tin­u­ous and non­de­vi­at­ing by­law en­force­ment,” Mashaba said last month.

Mashaba says he could see that there was no im­prove­ment in the clean­li­ness of the in­ner city, one of his big elec­tion­eer­ing prom­ises, even af­ter the third clean­ing shift was in­sti­tuted by Pik­itup. This, he says, was be­cause peo­ple were not tak­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity for keep­ing the city clean.

“I said to my­self, if I’m not go­ing to get com­mu­nity buy-in to un­der­stand the value of look­ing af­ter our en­vi­ron­ment, we are not go­ing to get the city clean. For me, a clean city is a healthy city. It is a city that can at­tract in­vest­ment.”

The aim for Joburg is 5% eco­nomic growth by 2021.

Mashaba ac­knowl­edges that it will take time for res­i­dents to “change their con­scious­ness” on how they see waste and a clean en­vi­ron­ment. Un­like in Rwanda, where it is law, Joburg res­i­dents can­not be forced to clean their streets and their com­mu­ni­ties.

“For me we need to pro­mote the spirit of vol­un­teerism in our peo­ple be­cause when we suc­ceed with A Re Se­bet­seng, we can ex­tend it to other sec­tors of our govern­ment ser­vices,” Mashaba says, men­tion­ing the pos­si­bil­i­ties of, for ex­am­ple, doc­tors vol­un­teer­ing a few hours in govern­ment clin­ics.

The long-term dream­ing con­tin­ues, as he de­scribes an aim for the next few years: “That Jo­han­nes­burg will be the clean­est city in the coun­try.”

What it means: Jo­han­nes­burg wants to em­u­late the Rwan­dan model of vol­un­teers clean­ing their neigh­bour­hoods

Phil Moore / AFP

Team­work: Once a month, Rwan­dans come to­gether for Umu­ganda, or com­mu­nity ser­vice

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