The Sunday News
Bruce Ndlovu and Vusumuzi Dube, Sunday News Reporters
AS taps in Bulawayo dry up, residents in Iminyela, Mabutweni and Sidojiwe are living in fear of the outbreak of diseases, as lack of water has exacerbated an already dire public health situation in areas where residents, in some cases up to four families, share one communal toilet.
The perennially dry City of Bulawayo is in the middle of a water crisis, with authorities only able to provide water for two out of nearly 100 suburbs in the city at any given time.
A second diarrhoea outbreak has hit the city, four months after another killed 13 and infected nearly 2 000 others in Luveve. Almost 100 cases, mainly affecting children, have been reported in the densely populated high-density suburb of Mzilikazi and surrounding areas.
While Covid-19 was the initial concern of residents living in Sidojiwe, where 600 residents in the triple floored trio of hostels share 57 rooms, there is an increasing fear of diarrhoeal infections as residents can go for weeks without water due to the shortages in the city. Sewage flows freely in Sidojiwe, while human waste gushes from pipes that have given in due to wear and tear.
“This is water that should be going through the sewer system but it’s flowing right out in the open. So, when you’re cleaning you could catch cholera or diarrhoea because we don’t have any kind of protective clothing. All that is a danger to our lives. Only God is protecting us and there is a lot of danger even before this coronavirus thing,” Mr Nkosinathi Moyo a resident in Sidojiwe told Sunday News.
A resident in Iminyela, Ms Daphne Nyoni said the toilets were a continuing source of worry for residents in the suburb.
On some instances, only a threadbare curtain stood for a door protecting those relieving themselves from the outside world. For women, the toilets bring in extra concerns as they do little to provide safety and privacy.
“As you can see these are not the most stable of structures. In the past we have complained about how the drainage system and the taps are next to each other which is a problem for us. We are really in danger and we are worried,” she said.
Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association co-ordinator Mr Emmanuel Ndlovu said the chickens were only coming to roost in places like Mabutweni, Iminyela and Sidojiwe, as city fathers had neglected them for far too long.
“It is the city’s responsibility to make sure that vulnerable people in suburbs like Emabutweni and Iminyela are adequately catered for and they have water and reticulation systems that are reasonable. All these problems are coming to the fore now because city fathers have neglected them for far too long,” he said.
In response to questions from Sunday News, Bulawayo City Council senior public relations officer Mrs Nesisa Mpofu said the responsibility to maintain toilets lay with residents. She added that hostels in Sidojiwe were meant to be demolished and residents relocated.
“The City of Bulawayo does not attend to internal plumbing but attends to blockages on the sewer network. In terms of Town Planning, the Sidojiwe area is a designated industrial area and the future use requires that the settlement be abolished and all residents relocated.
“Following the huge displacement of people through the Murambatsvina/Hlalanikuhle exercise, these places were recolonised (illegally occupied) by those affected by the scheme and had lost accommodation. Council reopened the blocks on humanitarian grounds, to temporarily house part of the affected population. This of course was not an improvement or ideal solution but it kept people from the adverse elements,” she said.
For Iminyela and Mabutweni, Mrs Mpofu said that plans were afoot to build individual toilets in the suburbs.
“The City of Bulawayo has been conducting health and hygiene awareness campaigns with various partners to educate the community on water conservation, handwashing, anti-vandalism, Covid-19, health and hygiene and safe water storage and use. The City of Bulawayo has been doing the necessary plans and surveying for the Iminyela / Mabutweni area to ensure that there are individual toilets in the houses.
“Some households have built own toilets through own funds or the Mfelandawonye scheme. Council is also working with various partners to source funding for the construction of individual toilets. The community also resolved to use their ward retention funds to purchase a brick moulding machine to assist in the construction of individual toilets. The major challenge in the speedy implementation of the programme has been lack of funds for the capital project,” she said.
She also said that council was looking into the development of a planning design that will accommodate low cost social housing with a view of solving the problems at Burombo, Sidojiwe, Vundu and Getrude hostels.