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Trash from city hall

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Accra stinks. And it’s filthy. No two ways about that. I wonder if there is any town or village in Ghana which is filthier than Accra and stinks worse. It’s a terrible situation. Instead of dealing with it sensibly and comprehensively, the Accra Metropolitan Assembly prefers to dabble in political expediency and senseless politicking.

Before Atta Mills won the presidency and appointed Alfred Vanderpuye as mayor of Accra Zoomlion run a virtual monopoly over garbage collection and disposal in Accra. It was doing a similar job in other big towns in the country. It was a thriving company making a lot of cash out of trash. But somehow, it was perceived as being too affiliated with the NPP.

There are people in the NDC who think that without the support of the Kufuor administration Zoomlion wouldn’t have become the company that it is today. So when Atta Mills came to power, the NDC, unofficially, was determined to break the back of Zoomlion and distribute the trash (and the cash) among companies that were sympathetic with the party.

To achieve this senseless aim, they decide to zone Accra, so that other companies can lift some of the garbage and make some money out of it. It was supposed to be a perfect jobs-for-the-boys scheme which will take some of the trash from Zoomlion and feed it to the hungry and angry footsoldiers of the party.

That meant that some areas in the capital were declared no go areas for Zoomlion. Garbage collection had suddenly become territorial. Zoomlion had its territories and the small-scale waste-management companies that had suddenly been set up, mostly by and for NDC footsoldiers, would have their territories as well.

Whoever thought up the scheme must have considered himself very smart. But for those who think without any political filters and with no footsoldiers breathing down their necks, it was a very stupid idea, doomed to fail. And failing it is.

Almost everywhere you turn in Accra these days there are heaps of garbage all over the place. People are complaining and it has gotten so bad that the Ghana Health Service has issued a warning that if the situation is not dealt with soon, there might be yet another cholera outbreak.

That is what happens when political expediency is placed above efficiency: afflictions come and we all suffer.

No one will say Zoomlion was doing a perfectly good job. I won’t. Sometimes, when I put my trash out it takes them more than three days to pick it up. They are not even so good at collecting their bills. But by far, they are the best waste management company in town. They have the equipment and they have the men (and women). When they put their hands to it, they don’t always do a perfect job but they do not botch it up. They even give free bins and when I got mine last year, it was like one of the best gifts I ever got.

Most of the new waste management companies that were set up after the rezoning of the city are as useless as the garbage they are supposed to collect. They don’t have the equipment, they don’t have the men and most of them don’t seem to know what they are about.

Yet the AMA insists on inflicting people in certain parts of the city with the inefficiency of the new waste management companies. That is the reason why heaps of garbage all over the city are increasing and growing ever taller.

We all agree it’s bad for one company to become a monopoly in any given sector. But it’s worse when central (or local) government decides to intervene by taking business from the company that enjoys the monopoly only to hand that business to a company that simply can’t do the job. Why should a local authority decide which company collects my garbage?

Will central or local government decide which company becomes my internet service provider or which company paints my house? If not, why should Vanderpuye and his bunch of nincompoops decide who collects my garbage?

This whole rezoning this is nonsense. It’s like saying that the country is going to be zoned such that MTN serves people in Accra, Vodafone for Ashanti, Airtel for the Volta, Expresso for Brong Ahafo and Glo for the rest of the country. Such an arrangement won’t work. It doesn’t allow for an efficient operation of a capitalist economy. It doesn’t work even for a garbage economy like ours.

If it is not the business of the Accra Metropolitan Assembly to decide for me which company I choose as my telecom services provider, I don’t see why they should decide who should be my waste management service provider.

The AMA’s job is to provide landfill sites and other means of disposing of the city’s garbage – something it hasn’t given much thought to and, therefore, hasn’t done so well. Right now, all we hear is that Accra’s landfill site are full. That’s a disaster waiting to happen but Mayor Vanderpuye is busy rubbing his hand through his beard and getting paid for it. The idea of recycling has been talked about several times but no one seems to have any plan on how to build one or two of those for Accra. Instead, they are wasting time ‘zoning’ Accra all in a bid to cash in on the city’s trash.

For me, the most dangerous trash in Accra is not the heaps of garbage in the city. It is in the minds of the men and women in city hall. It’s the reason why Accra is so filthy and stinky.

 

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