Jan 3, 2010
JAMES Muringani (23) of Chitungwiza’s Zengeza 4 area wakes up every morning with a bucketful of human waste for offloading at a communal blair toilet.
The human waste would have accumulated in the bucket over the night as the bucket is used by family members as their “toilet.”
This has been the norm for James as he has been conducting the chore every morning for the past five years. The Zengeza 4 section, popularly known as Pagomba, is diagonally opposite Chitungwiza Council’s head offices and has never had a sewer system since establishment in 2005.
This has prompted residents to use unorthodox means to relieve themselves, especially during the night. The “bucket system” which is now used by James’ family is common in the area, with some people resorting to using the bush to relieve themselves.
In addition, the area has never received any running water, resulting in residents depending on shallow wells for water. This is the water they drink and use for both cooking and laundry.
While residents elsewhere in Chitungwiza get into the New Year with plans to improve their yards, those from Zengeza 4 would be thinking about digging deep wells to save themselves from water problems. It seems a health time bomb is simmering at the surface and is waiting to explode in Zengeza.
Residents live in perpetual fear of contracting diseases such as cholera. They have no choice, but to stay put at their houses that have no sewer and running water because “this is where our only homes are.”
Like other residents, James has lost hope of living a normal life, as he is now accustomed to the situation in Zengeza.
“Since the time this area was built, we have not received water,” said James. “We do not even have any piping system nor sewer system. “Promises by council to improve our way of living have for years been mere rhetoric.”
Shallow wells are conspicuous in front of a number of houses in the area. There are a number of blair toilets dotted in front of most houses and what is worrisome is that the toilets are constructed near the shallow wells. It is feared some underground water from the toilets will seep into the wells.
Other residents have resorted to using nightclubs at a nearby shopping centre for ablution facilities. Chakanetsa Panganai, from the same area, said he uses one of his bedrooms as a bathroom.
“After putting water in a bucket, I then go ahead and bath in one of the rooms and then mop up the floor afterwards.” But the residents seem unperturbed as they do their day-to-day business as if everything is normal.
Children are equally vulnerable to health diseases that are associated with consumption of unclean water. Those who fear contracting diseases, fetch drinking water from taps at the council head offices.
Even the city authorities do not dissuade the residents from fetching water from the council premises presumably because they know they are the ones to blame for the water problems.
“We are living by the grace of God,” said Panganai. So united are the residents that they share the use of the wells among themselves. “No hard feelings,” said Panganai. “We have to share, after all we are in the same predicament.”
It is difficult for one to imagine that the suburb faces such a problem judging by the posh houses in the area. The towering houses give the impression that all is well. Ironically, the Chitungwiza Municipality has been billing the residents of the area despite the fact that there is no running water.
One of the residents, whose water bill recently topped more than US$150 said it was a mockery for council to bill them for water that they are not supplying. “We have been receiving bills since we started living in this area,” said the resident, who refused to be named.
But what really went wrong from the time the suburb as established? Chitungwiza Municipality unveiled the housing stands for the suburb in 2003 and sold them to home seekers who were on the housing waiting list. Council promised to develop the stands to pave way for the home seekers to construct their houses.
The council entered into an agreement with a construction company, FORIT, to develop the stands, but ended up failing to pay the required amount of money for the completion of the job. Only some roads covered with gravel were created, while the contractor moved off site before lining sewer and water pipes.
The impatient residents, seeing that their concerns were not being addressed, went ahead and constructed their houses. Most of the home seekers started building structures in 2004, while waiting for council to provide sanitation facilities.
But five years on, the local authority is still to provide sanitation facilities. Some of the residents with financial means have since started drawing water from surrounding areas.
When contacted for comment, Chitungwiza spokesperson Mr Zeph Mandirahwe referred all the questions to the town clerk, Mr Godfrey Tanyanyiwa, who was not available to comment by the time of going to print. But an official in the council health department who refused to be named said: “Council made a very big mistake by creating these neighbourhoods where there are no proper sanitation facilities.”
Zengeza 4 is not the only residential area in Chitungwiza that has no water supplies. Unit O in Seke has a perennial problem for lack of water supplies and was apparently the epicentre of the cholera outbreak that ravaged the country.