Maseru: the rotten city

Maseru: the rotten city

WHENEVER I am in Maseru, the capital city of Lesotho, many questions run through my mind. I often ask myself, what would happen if Chief Leabua Jonathan were to rise from the dead and see what has happened to Maseru? Many times I ask myself what would happen if Chief Nehemiah Maseribane and Ntsu Mokhehle were to rise up and see the embarrassment that Maseru has become.
Walking on the precincts of the most “prestigious” city in the country has become a health hazard to us. Maseru is now similar to a once popular private school where all the rich and glamorous sent their kids but has since lost its lustre.

Growing up, travelling to Maseru was one of the journeys we always looked forward to. Nicknamed the City of Oranges, Maseru was a dream destination for almost all kids that grew up in the districts. This is because Maseru was a place that had many things that we could not find in our home towns. Even today, Maseru remains the only place where there are shopping malls.
However, nowadays, Maseru is no longer the envious “city of oranges” as it was fondly called. We now talk of and see Maseru as the city of rot. Walking through the Manonyane bus stop area alone is a repulsive exercise. The smell from the freely flowing rivers of sewage from burst sewer pipes infects the air around that area. There is also a nauseating massive body of black mud that also stands in puddles in the now fashionable potholes that decorate our roads and ranks.

Despite this, street vendors continue to sell food items ranging from makoenya, plates of food and fruits and vegetables with no sense of shame. There are also several Chinese supermarkets at whose doors there are rivers of running sewage water. Across the road from the Chinese supermarkets there is a food outlet that sells fried chicken.
Even medicines are sold at this area and in the buses that ferry passengers to Mohale’s Hoek and Maputsoe. All these places are selling food and medicine in a very unhealthy and filthy environment. But the Maseru City Council (MCC) and the Ministry of Health through its Department of Environmental Health couldn’t care less. The health of Basotho is compromised and jeopardised but responsible bodies are nowhere to be found or seen.
The National Health Strategic Plan of 2017-2022 defines health as “a complete state of physical, mental and social well-being and not merely an absence of diseases or infirmity.” The situation in Maseru, especially at the Manonyane bus stop area runs counter to vision in all aspects.

In alignment with the definition given in the National Strategic Plan, research indicates that some of the factors that influence health include but are not limited to social, economic, food production and water and sanitation.
In addition, people’s daily lives and the environments in which they live and work, influence their health to a large extent. This means the lives of people working in the Manonyane area are highly influenced by the environment in which they live.
In essence they are at risk of contracting waterborne and airborne diseases that are caused by the massive pollution that they find themselves living in day in and day out.
However, Maseru City Council and the health inspectors housed in the Department of Environmental Health seem to be oblivious to the principles of good health. Otherwise, the status quo would have changed a long time ago.

It is worth noting that the Department of Environmental Health’s main functions are to provide technical and administrative support to ensure a safe physical environment. The scope and functions include, water, sanitation and hygiene, food safety and pollution control.
Unfortunately, the pollution that seems to be the order of the day in the precincts of Maseru has eluded this noble department of His Majesty’s government. The environmental health division and the Maseru City Council were not moved even when a few weeks ago some youths organised a clean-up Maseru campaign.
I agree that some of the pollution we see in town is caused by our carelessness as commuters. However, what I am writing about here is not dirt resulting from common littering of banana peels and plastics that we carry our makoenya. I am writing about serious pollution to the environment that needs the intervention of government departments responsible for our environment.

I plead with the MCC and environmental health division personnel to come to the aid of Basotho. Otherwise one of these days, we will have a cholera outbreak on our hands. Such an outbreak will cost lives.
Such an outbreak will also cost the government a lot of money as people will need medical attention.
We all know that prevention is better than cure. I urge the MCC and the environmental health department to act now before it is too late. My plea is that Maseru should be restored to its glory.
Make Maseru the “City of oranges” again.

Kelello Rakolobe

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