Cabinet will soon make a resolution to ban the use of plastic bags in order to combat litter on the streets and prevent wastage of resources, says Ministry of Local Government Permanent Secretary Amos Malupenga

Speaking when he featured on ZNBC’s Sunday Interview programme, Malupenga said government was looking for ways to enhance waste management strategies, make the waste itself attractive and able to generate resources.

“One of the problems we have in this country is that we see waste as a burden. But we should start seeing waste as a source of livelihood and money. I have not forgotten as few months ago when I was on the Copperbelt and the Provincial Minister, Honourable [Japhet] Mwakalombe was addressing this issue that we need to find a way of making the waste attractive because that is the only way we are going make our places clean very quickly. What is happening right now is that, everyone is seeing waste as a burden, so in the night when you’ve got waste and don’t know where to dump it you wait for your neighbours to sleep and then you go and dump at their door step, and when they wake up, they find that there is rubbish. So, we have to find a way of making waste very attractive so that people can start stealing waste instead of dumping it at other people’s homes. That way, we can have people stealing waste because they see value in it,” Malupenga explained.

“And this is being done in other countries; when you go to other countries, there is nothing that is thrown. And that is why you find that they are clean because literally they make use of everything. But for us, once you generate that waste and it is in the bin or wherever you put, then you start looking at it as a problem. But the moment we realise that this is money, it becomes easier.”

Asked if government had any intentions to ban the use of plastic bags, Malupenga said the matter was already being discussed and Cabinet would soon make a decision to either ban plastic bags or look for other options.

“Yes, but again maybe this is a matter that through another process is being discussed, I wouldn’t want to pre-empt it. There is a cabinet memorandum being developed at the moment but there are various options that are being weighed, so let me not be conclusive enough in answering this… there are consultations and I know that sooner [rather] than later, Cabinet will be making a decision on that because there are ministries involved. There is Ministry of Local Government, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Water Development and a number of stakeholders. So, in these consultations there are various options being proposed and, of course, banning plastics is one of them. But there are also other options on the table and we need to make a decision as government,” Malupenga added.

Meanwhile, Malupenga said that the cleaning exercise of the country declared by government every last Saturday of the month would only become a law if citizens failed to comply.

“When we talk about ‘make Zambia clean, green and healthy’, it’s basically talking about hygiene and again, going back to the issue of cholera and may be that’s a bit of a background as to why this programme has been re-launched in this fashion. You would recall that towards the end of last year, we had an outbreak of cholera and we lost some lives, unfortunately. But because the President understood what was at the centre of that epidemic, he had to use his powers as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces to instruct the men and women in uniform to step in and go and clean the city. You know, that it is not the role of men and women in uniform but that was a crisis that we had. So, the President simply realised that we were going to lose a lot of lives if that did not happen. We all saw the historical garbage that was removed from the streets and everyone was happy. So, that was a clear demonstration that this disease is related to lack of hygiene,” he narrated.

“From that moment, the question has been; ‘how do we move forward?’ So, the President had to talk to our Minister [Vincent Mwale] to say, ‘we are not going to keep those men [and] women in uniform forever on the streets in Cairo Road because they belong to the barracks. So, as I am preparing to demobilise, what is your strategy to maintain what has been achieved now?’ And this is what we are trying to keep now. You saw that at the beginning of this year, Honourable Mwale did issue Statutory Instrument number 10, basically trying to deal with the issue of street vending and the issues touching on hygiene. But for now, this is a moral issue; we want people to commit to this cleaning exercise by themselves. We will only enact the law if people fail [to] comply, otherwise, I don’t expect people to be pushed around just to clean their surroundings.”

He also said there was nothing wrong with copying an idea from another country if it was making your environment better.

“Other people are saying we have copied this idea from other countries, but there is nothing wrong in bench-marking. That is [how] any reasonable person does things; if I see that my friend is [doing] something right, there is nothing wrong with that. That is the essence of benchmarking; you have to look at what they are doing and see what improvements you can do. Rwanda today is being praised, but everybody knows that about two decades ago, the picture of Rwanda is not the same of what we are talking about. So, we should be asking ourselves to say, ‘why is it that Rwanda today is shining on the continent?’ It’s because citizens have united again learning from their past and they resolved that they were going to do things differently,” said Malupenga, in response to those criticising government over the cleaning exercise.