One man has been cleaning the streets of Bulawayo almost daily for the last 5 years

Early in the morning, armed with gloves, bags and a litter picker, Tonderai Shoko (40), starts his daily mission to keep Zimbabwe’s second-largest city, Bulawayo, clean.

Last week, he woke up for the 1 960th time to the same routine. It means Shoko has been collecting litter for more than five years and three months, only taking breaks when an urgent matter arises. In most cases, he can go for five days without a break.

“We clean-up for 30 minutes every day,” he told News24.

On some days, he is accompanied by a few volunteers who dedicate their time to picking up litter. On other days, it’s a one-man show. He’s the lifeblood of the clean-up and has no worries about working alone.

“I work with whoever is willing and available. At times, I do it alone or with a crowd. I am not funded by anyone. On some days, well-wishers will donate gloves and bin liners, but most times I pay for all supplies, including fuel, to the clean-up venue, no matter how far,” he said.

The clean-up campaign is documented through his Facebook account, sometimes on X, with the hashtag: #KeepBulawayoClean. So popular has the clean-up campaign been that he even undertook one in South Africa’s Johannesburg.

“To reach more people, we decided to use social media and post litter awareness campaigns on all our platforms. We did a clean-up in Diepsloot around 2017,” he said.

He plans his clean-ups at the beginning of the week to map out which areas to cover.

“The first step is to select an area of interest or an area of concern which needs to be cleaned up, and we clean it up. It’s amazing what you can achieve in just 30 minutes,” he said.

Some critics contend that public clean-ups fail to tackle the underlying causes of pollution. Cleaning streets, they argue, don’t keep it clean because, the next day, people with the same habits will litter as they go.

Shoko is aware of this mind set and he believes people’s attitudes will change one day. What’s needed is ways and means of educating people about the importance of their environment.

As such, it’s up to this generation to make a difference.  Shoko said: “If not cleaning up, we plant trees or conduct anti-littering classes at schools and institutions. Be the change you want to see in your city, in your country, in your universe,” he said.

The clean-up idea came about when he reminisced about the good old times when Bulawayo was one of the cleanest cities in Africa, growing up in the 1990s.

“Growing up in Bulawayo, my brothers and I used to cycle to school. The cycle tracks on the roadside were always clean. As years went by, those tracks became dirty with litter and that’s when we decided to take the initiative to clean the city,” he said.

In 2018, President Emmerson Mnangagwa introduced a monthly clean-up campaign for every first Friday of the month.  (Source:

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