Sanitary lanes, popularly known as mikoto in the Central Business District (CBD), continue to provide cover for illegal dealings, despite a resolution passed in November last year aimed at reducing activity.
Lanes that are not closed off to the public in the CBD are a hive of activity as people take advantage of the darkness provided by buildings to do illegal activities. They are used for defecating and urinating, while prostitution and drug trade are some of the anti-social behaviours which take place there.
Sanitary lanes are meant to provide passage for service vehicles such as delivery and garbage collection trucks. The municipality is obliged to keep them clean. However, piles of garbage have stacked up in most open sanitary lanes forming breeding grounds for diseases and vermin, creating an unhealthy environment in the city.
In November 2013, Council’s Committee on Environmental Management passed a resolution to make it mandatory to gate all sanitary lanes in the CBD. The committee noted that the lanes were being abused by street kids who burnt garbage and used them as toilets and sleeping areas.
“They had also become hiding places for thieves, stolen goods and vendors’ products. Garbage was also accumulating in these lanes creating breeding places for flies and mosquitoes,” read the minutes.
The Environment Committee gave 31 December as the deadline for building owners to put gates on sanitary lanes and failure to meet the deadline meant Council would put up the gate and charge it to the building owner. The committee also resolved that the sanitary gates should be manned at all times.
However, the deadline has since expired without any new gates being installed. Have city fathers already forgotten about the resolution? Asked for a comment on the issue of putting gates on sanitary lanes, Harare City’s corporate communications manager Leslie Gwindi said the issue of sanitary lanes has already been dealt with. He said that Council had resolved the issue many years ago.
In a bid to manage sanitary lanes at their buildings, some owners installed security gates prior to the passing of the resolution, in order to keep out intruders. One building owner in the CBD said that he was forced to install a gate after the sanitary lane was turning into a health hazard.
“Due to the shortage of toilets in the CBD, people were using this alley for toilet purposes so I decided to put up the gate which has since solved my problems,” he said.
One resident in the Avenues, Maria Shumba (54) complained that sanitary lanes were becoming love nests among other illegal activities. This has led to an increase in police patrolling the sanitary lanes in this area.
Some observers have attributed the influx of people working in the capital, particularly informal traders who work on the streets, as a reason for the high activity in the alleyways. Downtown sanitary lanes are some of the worst affected due to the high concentration of people operating in the area. Though police patrol the sanitary lanes, thieves have been known to take refuge and stash their loot in these spaces, which in most cases are devoid of any lighting at night.
Along with all these illegal activities taking place in the sanitary lanes, some of society’s weak also call the spaces a home. Homeless elders and street kids take refuge in the lanes where discarded cardboard boxes and rubbish bins provide food and shelter.
With the City’s vision of attaining world-class standards by 2025, focus also needs to be put on restoring sanity in the sanitary lanes.