South Africa's Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs minister Zweli Mkhize says residents must make sure that they keep their immediate surroundings clean. Picture: Supplied/GCIS

Pietermaritzburg - Filth levels in Pietermaritzburg should concern everyone associated with the city, Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize told local residents on Friday.

Speaking at Imbali Township Stadium to mark the start of the massive government-led cleanup campaign Mkhize, appealed to locals to make sure that they keep their immediate surroundings clean and to take pride in their city.  

''What disturbs us is that Msunduzi (Pietermaritzburg) is filthy, it stinks. It brings shame to us who come from the area when our cabinet colleagues tell of having pass through Pietermaritzburg because they often highlight how dirty the city is," Mkhize said.

He said while the campaign of cleaning was nationwide, the filth levels in the KwaZulu-Natal capital had prompted the cleanup initiative. 

During a whistle-stop visit in Pietermaritzburg in January this year ahead of the ANC birthday celebrations and manifesto launch, President Cyril Ramaphosa remarked about the filth levels that he had observed around the KZN capital and said it left him depressed. 

"We are now appealing to you to go home spread the gospel about the importance of cleaning up our areas. We do not want to come back here again and repeat the same thing" said the Cogta minister. 

He pointed out that if the message was taught at home, cleanliness would become a habit. Mkhize was joined on the campaign trail by Minister Nomvula Mokonyane, Deputy Minister Barbara Thompson, Cogta MEC Nomusa Dube-Ncube, Health MEC Dr. Sibongiseni Dhlomo, Msunduzi Mayor Themba Njilo and other leading government officials.

Mokonyane said everyone should be ashamed that plastic had become South Africa's national flower. She appealed to city residents to see refuse as a source of income and job opportunities and warned against complacency. 

"If you do not take up the opportunities that come with recycling, other people will come here and own the process and make money out of it, the choice is yours," the minister said. 

Friday's launch commenced early with the unveiling of millions of rand worth of yellow plant equipment which is destined for municipalities which have been hiring such equipment for local clean-up operations at enormous cost. 

The newly purchased equipment is for cleaning drains, rebuilding infrastructure and improving the general environment in KZN’s municipalities. 

The cleanup comes after numerous complaints from businesses, residents and visitors over the past months who have pointed to the filth as source of shame. Many established businesses left the Pietermaritzburg Central Business District citing filth and growing crime for their departure.   

Pietermaritzburg Chamber of Business (PCB) CEO Melanie Venness said they welcomed the government-led initiative adding that they want to be part of it.

African News Agency (ANA)