Posted on December 5, 2005

Garbage Collection Collapses in Harare

Angus Shaw, AP, Dec. 2, 2005

Mbare — The smell of sewage and rotting garbage wafts into homes. Acrid smoke hangs in the air where families have tried to burn household waste.

Garbage collection is the latest casualty as Zimbabwe’s economy crumbles.

With the start of seasonal rains, the effects are becoming unbearable in this poor south-western Harare township. Trash is piled waist-high in the narrow streets, and reeking water stagnates in potholes, blocked sewers and drains.

“It is symptomatic of general decline and the national crisis as a whole,” said Mike Davies, an official of the Combined Harare Ratepayers Association.

Zimbabwe is suffering its worst economic crisis since independence from Britain in 1980, blamed largely on the often-violent seizure of thousands of white-owned commercial farms for redistribution to blacks.

Four years of erratic rainfall have also disrupted the agriculture-based economy, leaving up to four million people in need of food aid in what was once a regional breadbasket.

Three waste management firms have withdrawn collection services across half the capital, citing acute shortages of gasoline, spare parts and equipment, and saying they get too little in fees from the city.