HARARE – Residents in one of Zimbabwe’s oldest suburbs sang hallelujah just around Christmas when their local council deployed a contractor to deal with recurring sewer problems.
Two weeks into the New Year, residents from St Marys and Zengeza suburbs in Chitungwiza town were gathered along Rufaro Road, the epicentre of their sewer problem and the place where the repairmen were working just days back.
And they were not there to pop the bottles for a job well done.
Residents smelt a rat after it emerged council made a mess of the job and they are now up in arms.
Irate residents who thought the days of hop, skip and jump were gone last week gathered near the burst sewer pipe on Rufaro Road demanding the head of Chitungwiza public works department boss Alfonse Tinofa, an engineer.
They said it was a clear dereliction of duty on council’s part that sewage problems persist. They allege funds for the project pumped by donors have gone to waste.
The residents blamed council management for incompetence and corruption.
“We are tired of this mess, now this is not even money from our rates but from donors. This (sewage problem) is certainly not about a lack of funds, Tinofa just does not care,” said resident Farayi Kagudu.
Kagudu and other residents had hoped the sewage problems were over after the work done by a reputable construction company over the festive season.
Tinashe Kazuru, a councillor for the ward, said he was disappointed that the residents were still enduring sewage-related problems.
Workers from the construction company and residents blame council for messing up the sewer project at Rufaro Road.
“We are surprised that we have been called back yet council said they can finish the job. Council hired a new contractor to finish the job. Another reason could be the pipes we laid are small in width,” said a worker, who could not be named because he was unauthorised to speak on behalf of the firm.
Asked why they had not used the appropriately-sized pipes, he said: “It is the council engineer who decides on the size of pipes, we just lay them.”
Tinofa did not respond to week-long efforts to get his side of the story.
Work on relaying the pipes by the private and “reputable” construction company in December last year had fed hope to the sewage-stricken residents of St Marys and Zengeza.
The company has successfully relayed sewer reticulation pipes in Seke and other areas in Chitungwiza.
Project engineer Herbert Nyakutsikwa said a “live sewage situation” meant the downstream needed cleaning but this was not done.
“Council should have done that for sewage to have a thorough flow before commissioning the sewer line”.
The construction company workers have been milling around along the road since Tuesday waiting for further instructions from council.
In an interview with the Daily News on Sunday the construction company’s managing director said the only problem is that Chitungwiza did not unblock the downstream side of the sewer line along the road before commissioning it.
‘We can’t take responsibility it was not within our scope of work, we received an instruction in November to start work on that site and completed it before shut down.
“We then wrote them a letter that they must ensure the downstream is unblocked before any connection can be made because this was not within our scope of works”.
A meeting between council and the contractors was later held on Thursday resolving to hire a subcontractor chosen by council.
A source close to the goings-on has said the council has since resolved to engage only management in its procurement committee.
The situation in St Marys mirrors the situation in the town, the country’s third most populated urban area with a million plus residents.
It has fallen from being a model dormitory set-up to a wretched habitat.
Back in the day — when Chitungwiza was still Chi-Town — residents would regularly complain how cows from nearby Seke village fouled their hood.
Today, they barely take notice when their own waste flows freely along streets.
Residents here, 30km south of the capital Harare, do not blink at the sight of small, street dams of their own waste forming on the potholes on roads a few metres from fireplaces where meals are prepared.
Electricity is now a rarity and fireplace meals are the forced in thing.
In Zengeza, where residents are more pro active in fighting council, a stink that blasts one’s nostrils passes for the welcome sign to St Marys, the oldest suburb in Chitungwiza.
A kilometre down the main road linking to the Town Centre, which only a decade ago stood as the pride of the town, a raw sewage rivulet had been running through the lanes.
The rivulet appears a permanent feature of the road after the latest botched Christmas job.
Its actual name is Rufaro Road but only the old timers remember this name. Parwizi (The river) is the name coined by residents who are enduring a life of dirt and neglect.
They are so used to the stench of raw sewage, the unsightly crusts of human waste at the dry “banks”, the incessant buzz of flies that coining their own names helps make light work of their grave situation.
Residents say it also helps “give life” to their conditions and without a caring council, they can only watch enviously as other creatures feast at their misery.
Road runner chickens — a favourite meal for many urbanites missing their rural upbringing — feast on the flies. The flies are feasting on the human waste.
For the humans, a new generation has been born, the “sewage generation”.
While it is hope, skip and jump for adult folk who have seen better times, innocent children play their games on the streets, the human waste in the mix. They are comfortable and see no problem at all. – Albert Masaka