Dumisani Nsingo, Senior Reporter
HATERS or the fortunate ones call it komnyama ubambile, literally meaning the land of darkness or the least civilised. That’s what Nkayi District in Matabeleland North Province has been termed, prior and after the country attained its independence.
Deplorable infrastructure, rumbling stomachs of thousands due to granaries that are more acquainted to the presence of whirlwind than grain has been the order as “gods also appear to have forsaken these dwellers”.
However, despite its imagined backwardness, it appears there is a glimmer of hope that there is light at the end of the tunnel and of course most of the rural folks believe none other than their “colossus” torch bearer, Nkayi North constituency Member of Parliament Sithembiso Nyoni will perform an archetype of the comic book superheroine and turn their land into that of milk and honey.
It also remains to be seen if the legislator would live up to her name which literally means promise in English, through fulfilling her pledges to her multitudes of electorates that ushered her into Parliament to consummate development in their district.
Of interest, however, unlike in most remote areas in Zimbabwe where one stealthily makes their way into the thicket of bushes in search of a convenient place to defecate, in Nkayi one does not “MESS AROUND”.
In Nkayi’s Ward Three open defecation is prohibited and the practice is set to be outlawed throughout the district in a move aimed at addressing health and sanitation issues in communities.
Through the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) programme, which was spearhead by World Vision and funded by the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) virtually all homesteads in ward three have a blair toilet within the confines of their yards.
The Rural WASH Programme (RWP) which started in 2012 was also earmarked to provide equitable and sustainable access of safe drinking water to 2 375 000 people in 10 000 communities. Sanitation facilities improved at 1 500 schools and hygiene practices improved among the rural population benefiting
1 140 000 people by 2015 in 30 districts of five provinces of Zimbabwe (Matabeleland North, Matabeleland South, Masvingo, Midlands and Mashonaland West).
“We were trained to construct a special model of a blair toilet and were provided with cement to build the infrastructure. To date only a few homesteads are still to have the ablution facility. These toilets will go a long way towards improving health and sanitation issues in our community as there are a host of diseases that might be transmitted by flies through open defecation,” said Rishon Ndlovu of Duha village.
Travellers synonymous with a number of road signs would certainly have their attention drawn by a number of signs pitched on the roadsides in Ward Three discouraging open defecation. However, there is more to the signs than just warnings. Defiant individuals that are caught on the wrong side of the “law” appear at a traditional court presided over by a village head and are likely to part with a few valuables as a fine.
Being caught defecating in the bush in other lands might be infringing on one’s rights to privacy but in Nkayi’s Ward Three it’s definitely COSTLY TO POOH in the open.
“We no longer condone the practice of excreting in the bush since we embarked on the toilets construction programme.
Virtually all the homes in Ward Three which has six villages now have toilets and by the end of this month all homesteads will be having one. Offenders that are caught excreting on the bush are liable to an offence and are made pay a fine of a goat.
“We however, exercise lenience on our visitors but the signs that were enacted by the road sides are a clear message thus we encourage them to approach any home and ask for a toilet to relieve themselves instead of resorting to using the bush because it’s NOT A TRIVIAL matter here,” said one of the village heads, Barnabas Mpofu.
He said a couple of villagers have appeared at the traditional court and fined a goat each. To many villagers goats are a mainstay to their livelihoods in regards to enhancing food security as well as generating income through trading in them. In actual fact some villagers rear them for sentimental value, and this just proves how much these small livestock mean to the rural folk.
Bush defecation also has economic repercussions on cattle farmers as it leaves the animals prone to measles. Cattle are infected with measles upon consuming grass with eggs passed from the faeces of an infected person. Human beings are host to the measles tapeworm.
Carcasses containing few cysts caused by measles must be frozen at -10 degrees Celsius for 10 to 14 days before the meat can be used for human consumption but its value depreciates. If many cysts are present, the entire carcass is condemned.
Matabeleland North has the largest number of cattle affected by measles. Environment Management Agency Matabeleland North provincial manager Chipo Mpofu-Zuze hailed the “no open defecation” campaign in Nkayi stating that it goes a long way towards discouraging pollution.
“It’s a good campaign because as an agency we are against any form of pollution. Open defecation pollutes both the land and water bodies as well and the faeces are washed into streams when it rains,” she said.
MP Nyoni, who is also a cabinet minister, said Nkayi might be lagging behind in terms of development but the district was taking a lead in environmental issues stating that she was going to spearhead a programme to ensure that each homestead has a toilet since “cleanliness is next to godliness”.
“Virtually all the homes in Ward Three now have toilets, as a district we used to be the least in terms of health and sanitation but now I can stand up and say we have a whole ward that is catered for and we have others that are coming up and our campaign is that every homestead should have a toilet and we are getting there. I believe being clean is a sign of spiritual purity or goodness and we are thriving to meet that,” she said.