by Dave Cochrane
30 August 2019 marked the six month anniversary of a project in Tembisa called Arehlwekiseng – let us clean. The project started in Freedom Street in Tembisa and is a collaboration between the residents, ward councilors, Destination Green, Outsurance, Environmental Affairs and Hennops Blue Horizon to keep our environment and our rivers clean.
Townships and informal settlements are under a lot of pressure with the large numbers of people living in the area, and most households providing lodgings for tenants. In Freedom street, dustbin bags with household waste are placed on street pavements for collection. Although there is regular waste collection, some residents throw the waste into storm-water drains or culverts and the waste collects there until the rains come and wash it into the streams and rivers. The Arehlwekiseng project has focused on cleaning these areas and trying to find ways to keep them clean. Our plan was to hold a clean-up on the last Friday of every month. The response of the residents and ward councilors has been phenomenal. Alitha, a resident of Freedom Street, has formed a team of about 20 people who now get together to conduct clean-ups every Tuesday and Thursday to keep the street clean. It is not easy. When confronting people who dump their waste Alitha have been threatened, but she says that she refuses to be intimidated.
When Lynn and I arrived on Friday morning for the clean-up, it was great see how clean Freedom Street is. The culvert that we clean every month had rubbish, and we cleaned it out again. Alitha and the 20 regular volunteers arrived, as did Zweli Mnguni from Destination Green and Mandla from Department of Environmental Affairs. Destination Green, a recycling company in the area is doing a fantastic job – going beyond recycling and supporting campaigns to clean the environment. With Freedom Street being clean, we decided to move across to Mimas Street. Mimas street has many piles of rubbish, and the bridge where the Sedibeng Stream flows is clogged up with plastic and household waste.
Storm Water Channel at Sethokga Park before and after
In nearby Sethokga Park on Mbiza Street, Sarah Masigo. has started a clean-up campaign in this area. About 40 residents joined forces to tackle this area and a large storm water channel that was full of waste was cleared. Sarah says that the campaign helps to empower her, to show her community what needs to be done.
At the end of the clean-ups, Outsurance delivered hot dogs, oranges and water to the volunteers. This gesture means so much to people who have so little.
A key to this campaign is consistency – we get together every month and we will continue.