South African charity Lifeline is running an initiative to get rid of festering rats in the Joburg township of Alexandra. In a modern take of the story of the Pied Piper of Hamelin, Lifeline is offering a mobile phone to any resident who manages to capture and submit 60 rodents to the organisation.
According to a report in South Africa’s Mail & Guardian newspaper, Alexandra is so overrun by rats “They nibble through anything near the ground – rubbish and cars – and even bite sleeping children’s fingers.”
The phones are provided by telecoms company 8ta as promotional material. Though initially reported as an 8ta initiative a company spokesman denied they are behind it:
You will have to ask Lifeline why they decided to use these promotional products. They do a lot of good community work, including in Alexandra. They used the promotional material to incentivise members of the community. I wasn’t aware this is how they were going to resolve the problem [of rats]. We won’t distance ourselves from Lifeline. It is a charity that does a lot of good work and our support for them is steadfast. I don’t want to deny the story. What I’m saying is that it’s not our initiative.
The initiative could suffer the cobra effect,with people breeding rats just to get a phone. Only time will tell whether this PR stunt will work.