15 years after operation murambatsvina, recipients of the Garikai Hlalani kuhle homes are still living in an inhabitable environment, an ongoing partnership between them and council, though not ideal, could slowly change the future.
Thabo Siziba from the Garakai/Hlalani Kuhle area, Ward 8, in Gwanda Urban has stayed for the past 14 years without access to water. Residents from the area have waited for the past 15 years for the Gwanda Municipality to service their area but without luck.
He says it has been hell living without a sewer system and water.
“Can you imagine people from an entire suburb relieving themselves in the bushes. This is the kind of lifestyle I have been subjected to over the past 14 years.”
The suburb has been growing as more and more people are building meaning the population of people relieving themselves in the bush has been increasing.
“We used to have a thick bush nearby where we relieved ourselves but because of people who cut down trees and expansion of the town we now have to travel further to reach the thick areas,” says Thabo Siziba, Gwanda Ward 8 resident.
Siziba says their neighbourhood is now very filthy as some people don’t even bother to get to the bush especially at night. Some people use trenches within the area and unfinished houses to relieve themselves.
The community is living in fear especially now during the COVID-19 pandemic where people were expected to maintain hygiene.
“We can’t afford to wash our hands regularly as expected as we don’t have water. Those who can afford use their own funds to connect water and dig septic tanks,” says Siziba.
Access to a clean and safe environment is one of the basic rights of every human being enshrined in the Constitution of Zimbabwe. Key to this right is the access to water and sanitation services.
Deborah Ntini also from Garikai/Hlalani Kuhle houses says it is extremely difficult for residents when they want to relieve themselves during the night. She says it is dangerous for women and children to use the bush especially considering that there are gold panners nearby.
Ntini has made an arrangement with a neighbour who has water and she collects from her house and they share the water bill at the end of each month. She however has to use the water sparingly.
Another resident, Jane Maphosa says she normally buys her water at R3 for a 20 litre bucket. This forces her to use the precious liquid sparingly.
The councillor of Ward 8, Ntuthuko Ndebele says Garakai/Hlalani Kuhle housing scheme has 530 houses. A total of 504 houses do not have sewer systems while about 200 do not have water. Some residents have resorted to using their funds to connect water and a sewer system to their homes but not all can afford.
According to Ndebele, when the government allocated people houses under the Garikai/Hlalani Kuhle scheme some pipes were delivered and a trench dug in a rocky area for sewer reticulation, however came to a standstill leaving residents stranded.
Manzamnyama stream which passes close to Garikai/Hlalani Kuhle houses is now dirty because of human waste.
Gwanda mayor, Cllr Njabulo Siziba says the municipality does not have funds to service the suburb after the residential area was placed under their jurisdiction by the government. Residents have since been approached and urged to mobilise resources to develop their area.
“We encouraged residents to mobilise funds to have a water and sewer system connected to their area and they have started. Just because the residents are mobilising their resources doesn’t mean they will have to incur all the costs,” says Siziba.
The community is getting a bill of quantities from the municipality engineering department and after buying material they provide council with the receipts. Those funds will then be deducted from servicing fees which are supposed to have billed to the homeowners.
“So, the council wouldn’t have abdicated its role but in a sense it would have serviced the area. These are the kind of partnerships that we encourage with the community,” he says.
Matabeleland South Provincial Water and Sanitation Hygiene (Wash) chairperson Moment Malandu says access to water and sanitation is crucial especially during this COVID-19 pandemic where people are expected to wash their hands regularly.
“Water is an important element of the COVID-19 mitigation strategy. If people don’t wash their hands then the pandemic is likely to spread. The situation also puts people at risk of contracting water borne diseases such as Cholera especially now that we are in the rainy season. Open defecation is also a serious problem because some of the human waste is swept into water bodies,” says Malandu.
Malandu says it is important for local authorities to ensure that residential areas are serviced before people settle. He says in an urban set up a certificate of occupancy should not be issued if a house does not have water.
Source: The Citizen Bulletin