By James Muonwa
Mhangura residents are angry over alleged dereliction of duty by the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa), which has resulted in thousands of inhabitants living in squalid conditions characterised by raw human excreta clogging public toilets and flowing streams of sewerage which are commonplace.
Residents of the former mining settlement also have to endure perennial water shortages.
Mhangura Residents Association secretary, Peter Kadambe said residents risk contracting water-borne diseases such as cholera and typhoid due to the unhygienic conditions they are being subjected to by Zinwa, which superintends both water and sewer reticulation systems.
He said the ablution facilities are dysfunctional, thereby, exposing multitudes of dwellers to deadly contagious infections as the area has become fertile breeding grounds for disease vectors such as houseflies.
Said Kadambe, "Zinwa is solely to blame for the inhumane conditions Mhangura residents are living under. The prevailing situation is in sharp contrast to the time when Mhangura Copper Mine managed it's water and sewer system.
"The entire system has been vandalised and Zinwa has, since taking over from Makonde Rural District Council (RDC), failed to recrify the problems around water and sanitation which have worsened."
Another resident of Mhangura's R Section, Gilbert Mangwiro fumed Zinwa was billing them huge amounts of money for non-existent services and called for clients to boycott paying bills.
A visit to Mhangura by NewZimbabwe.com last week painted a dire state of affairs that highlights infrastructural decay and outright neglect by the responsible authority, particularly in Chebanga high density suburb.
The seven filthy communal toilets, shared by an estimated 5 000 people and situated in the midst of rows of houses, spew of faecal matter and a choking stench of urine.
"We are literally surviving by the grace of God," added Kadambe.
When contacted for comment this Monday, Zinwa corporate communications manager, Marjorie Munyonga admitted there was a ticking health time bomb in Chebanga.
"In Chebanga, the authority, in partnership with a partner, is rehabilitating the system. In this area, sewer has been draining into one septic tank that got full, which is the reason why there has been the present challenge of sewer bursts," said Munyonga.
She added, "On the sewer side, Zinwa is working on introducing individual sewer connections for residents who have been using common toilets and new manholes are also being worked on."
Mhangura legislator Precious Chinhamo-Masango has come to the rescue and has embarked on the construction of Blair toilets to ameliorate the plight of Chebanga residents, who are resorting to unconventional places and systems to relief themselves.
Some families were reportedly practicing open defecation while others relieve themselves in buckets which they then empty indiscriminately.
The local MP is using part of her allocation under the constituency development fund (CDF) to bankroll the toilets project which will go a long way in providing decent ablution facilities for the community.
Said Chinhamo-Masango, "This problem of toilets has been going on for almost 10 years. Therefore, after realising the severity of the matter l engaged the CDF committee and agreed to build Blair toilets to avert a health disaster.
"We allocated $180 000 from the 2020 CDF disbursements towards the toilets which are being built as a temporary measure while Zinwa and other relevant authorities find lasting solutions to to the water and sanitation challenges facing Chebanga residents."
An adverse Environmental Health Technician's report dated 4 March 2021 seen by New Zimbabwe.com warns of an impending health catastrophe if the water and sewer situation is not rectified urgently.
Reads part of the report, "The above findings clearly constitute a nuisance as noted in the Public Health Act chapter 15:17 Section 104 subsection 2(b) and (g) all of which are likely to be injurious or dangerous to human health in Chebanga and diseases that may emanate from such a situation have the capacity to spread to the whole township of Mhangura if the situation is not resolved as a matter of urgency..."
Following recommendations by health authorities, MP Chinhamo-Masango says construction of the Blair toilets was a priority inorder to avert a disease outbreak with potential to wipe out the entire community.
In the long run, the existing communal toilets should be demolished to pave way for construction of new ones which use proper water and sewer reticulation systems, the report further stated.
Makonde RDC has since offered Zinwa land to construct a new sewer treatment plant whose surveys and designs are already complete. The old plant was abandoned years ago resulting in ponds of raw sewer mushrooming everywhere.
Meanwhile, Zinwa has pledged to holistically solve the water problems in Mhangura by increasing raw water abstraction capacity and constructing a new raw water pump house downstream of Alpha Dam to ensure uninterrupted supply all-year round.
Zinwa took over water and sewer system management in the town after Makonde RDC surrendered pleading incapacitation to run the affairs.
The council had inherited the dilapidated system from the now defunct copper mining giant upon it's closure around 2000.
(Picture: The site where MP Chinhamo-Masango is constructing temporary Blair toilets in Mhangura's Chebanga suburb).
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