Sifelani Tsiko Senior Writer
Now that the campaign frenzy is over, Zimbabweans from all political parties need to think seriously about the impact of campaign posters, banners and other party hoardings put up by the actors on our buildings, premises and the environment.
Posters are plastered all over cemeteries, trees, precast walls, shops, churches, rocks, bridges, road signs and on any installation in various parts of the country.
The problem is widespread in both urban and rural areas. Most areas of the country are still full of posters, banners and party symbol paintings which are now an eyesore. This has tended to mess up the aesthetics of our buildings, infrastructure and our environment.
Politicians hired people and pick-up trucks for the job and they just need to do the same to clear up the streets of posters, banners and hoardings they put up.
It is heart-rending that as Zimbabweans, we still continue to violate our electoral laws and by-laws that require political actors to remove campaign posters within at least a week after the election period.
Very few political actors have volunteered to clean up their mess by removing election paraphernalia bearing the marks of their political parties.
All rural and urban councils have no capacity to clear up the mess on their own.
We had at least 55 political parties, with some millions of voters who battled it out in the July 30 elections vying for various posts, while 23 candidates contested for the presidential post which was won by President Mnangagwa.
All candidates tried to snatch a seat in the harmonised polls through attention-grabbing posters containing their names in bold, with highlighted faces and catchy taglines.
The politicians went out in full force to sell themselves, erecting billboards, pinning posters, and positioning banners on every tree, wall and space they could find. They spent millions of dollars in this political exercise, which saw them placing campaign materials littering fields and walls in various spots and on highways. The campaign frenzy is over and political actors and Zimbabweans in general should now volunteer to remove the remnants of the campaign.
This could be an ideal way of expressing magnanimity in victory, as well as graciousness in defeat.
Aside from taking down campaign materials posted on walls and lamp posts, candidates and their supporters must also observe proper waste disposal mechanisms.
Where possible, discarded campaign materials should be segregated, not mixed altogether, to facilitate their proper recycling or disposal.
Environmental groups are more than willing to assist political actors to clear up their materials. Political actors and their supporters need to be sensitive to environmental matters as well as issues to do with the cleanliness of our towns, cities and rural settings.
They must remember that dumping campaign discards on streets, vacant lots, storm drains and water bodies, or setting them on fire are forbidden by our laws to protect public health and the environment.
Environmental groups need to lobby political actors to strive to reduce pollution and running aggressive campaigns that mar the aesthetics of our surrounding, including sacred rocks with ancient paintings.
We also need innovative strategies of engaging local communities, demonstrating creative and safe recycling of used poll campaign materials.
The rules are there, but they are not being enforced. Posters may only be erected for a certain specified time before an election.
This period is either several days before the poll date or from the date the polling day order for the election has been made.
Penalties are there, which may lead to candidates found guilty being given sentences. The printer of the posters may also be criminally accountable and suffer the penalties of suspension or revocation of franchise or permit in accordance with law.
Enforcement has not been easy and it is incumbent upon all Zimbabweans to take up the responsibility of cleaning up our environment.
However, its not all gloom and doom. In the just-ended polls, some candidates adopted some new approaches to campaigning that sought to minimise the use of posters through the use of innovative communicate messaging like digital and human billboards.
A few of the candidates like Fadzayi Mahere even embarked on a clean up campaign soon after the polls, removing all posters and campaign materials.
This speaks to what needs to be done in future when it comes to the use of campaign materials and safeguarding our environment. We must commend Mahere and all other environmentally conscious candidates who spearheaded clean-up campaigns soon after the elections.