National Monthly Cleaning Saturdays: Who Must be in Charge?
Asks Pastor Mohamed Sesay (14/10/18)
Now things are pretty much better for Freetown as city dwellers cooperate with local and central government to solve the trash problem.
The monthly Cleaning Saturdays introduced by the new administration of President Julius Maada Bio are turning out to be a winner for the City of Freetown which, before the advent of Cleaning Saturdays, had become a place of uncontrolled filth.
But in as much as there is a beauty in the cleaning activities, there is also confusion as to who must lead it as no thorough system has been put in place to spell out exactly who must be in charge and it is clear that if things stay as they are, the city will soon deteriorate into the filthy days of the past.
The verbal confrontation between Deputy Minister of Local Government Philip Tetema Tondoneh and the Mayor of Freetown, Yvonne Aki-Sawyer, during the past Saturday cleaning, was a thing of revulsion to most people especially when it happened right in front of the general public. That confrontation proved that nobody knows exactly who must be in charge of the cleaning of the City of Freetown.
It has been the tradition in the past for the Freetown City Council which is headed by the Mayor, to be in charge of all cleaning activities in the city with help from government and donors.
The new Mayor of the City of Freetown who won her executive mayorship under the ticket of the outgone main opposition All Peoples Congress party, keeps thinking that things must remain in that status quo but the new government of President Bio thinks otherwise believing that it is the work of Central Government to ensure that the city is clean.
There are a few reasons to the new government's idea: First, the new SLPP government thinks that in the past much money was wasted in the cleaning process with no results at all. Second, the government thinks that it will be inconceivable for an opposition party to take up the cleaning process with the fear of sabotage as openly expressed by Mr Tondoneh during his confrontation with the Mayor.
Cleaning itself is big business and the past City Council administration which was controlled by the opposition APC, did pour more money down the drain but with the city remaining perennially filthy. In fact it came to a point during the last City Council administration, that all ideas were lost as to how to make sure the city is permanently clean.
Mayor Aki-Sawyerr on her part, keeps thinking that she must not be blamed for what happened when she was not yet in office with her believing that she has all the ideas to ensure the city is clean as she promised city dwellers in her manifesto.
The confrontation was all about money with the confusion arising as to who must pay workers and who must not and how many workers must be paid and how many must not.
As that confrontation progressed it became evidently clear that it was more a political party thing than an interest in the cleaning process itself with each side wanting to satisfy their respective party interests.
Minister Tondoneh said that the Mayor was giving the impression that she was in charge when, according to him, she is not. He said something like the Mayor approached Orange Mobile Company for help when, according to him, she was not supposed to but the Mayor stood her ground by saying that Orange went to her and not her to Orange which simply means, according to her, that Orange recognises that she must be in charge and that was why they went to her and not to Central Government.
Tondoneh was to flip and go over the top by threatening to deal with the Mayor "accordingly". This confrontation is very unfortunate but it could never have happened if only a system had been put in place to address the cleaning process in the city.
City Council cannot just be dismissed as irrelevant in the cleaning process. It has a role and it must be allowed to play that role no matter if it is controlled by an opposition party.
Cleaning of the city must never be a Central Government role. What Central Government can do is to assume the role of monitoring the process and making sure that it is carried out to the letter. What is a local council thing must be left with the local council to carry it out.
Both sides must sit to iron out each other's respective roles before the next Cleaning Saturday. That confrontation was not only shameful but reckless with two adults fighting over who must be paid for cleaning and who must not.
This government must not be seen to be playing the bully boy role but rather assuming the motherly figure and then things will work for the city and for the people.