City officials in Bulawayo, the second largest city in Zimbabwe, have asked residents to help clear toilet waste that has accumulated in sewers by adhering to a strict – we kid you not – flushing schedule.
Late last month, Bulawayo city spokesperson, Nesisa Mpofu, asked all Bulawayans to flush their toilets simultaneously at 7:30 p.m. on Mondays and Thursdays. Mpofu told citizens that synchronized flushing will help move waste through the country’s “old and overburdened” sanitation system, which is lately worsened by a growing urban population, water shortages and a troubled economy.
The official request was neither expertly worded nor especially well received. A misunderstanding among the general populace led to outrage over the notion of flushing one’s toilet only twice a week.
“No, no, no!” Mpofu shot back in a second press conference. “What kind of country would this be if toilets were allowed to lie stagnant for days?”
We don’t know. A smelly one?
After Mpofu assured residents that they can also flush their johns anytime they like, the citizenry settled down. Still, local activist groups gathered to criticize the proposed solution as “ridiculous” and “an insult to people’s dignity.”
Magondonga Mahlangu, a local activist against the nation’s lousy public service, complained that the council’s proposed “big flush” is no solution to any problem.
“It just goes to show that someone in the council has lost touch with the real issues on the ground and is failing to deal with real problems,” Mahlangu sniped.
She went on to say that the city authorities needed to consider actually fixing the aging water and sewer pipes, which have not been replaced in years, and that the city’s residents have enough challenges in their day-to-day lives (including unemployment and a failing economy) without being further asked to remember to flush their toilets at a certain time.
“It’s not like people have nothing better to do,” Mahlangu said.