HARARE – Last week’s photograph in the media of an earth moving machine at excavations close to the Norton graveyard indicates the extent of our moral bankruptcy.
According to the press report, Norton Council had given a Zanu PF activist known as Comrade Yondo, permission to mine for gold next to the Norton cemetery.
Can Zimbabweans do anything in the name of Zanu PF — even mine for gold metres away from burial grounds?
In the picture the mounds of excavated soil look to be about four metres away from the nearest grave and in the accompanying report people who had been working at the “mine” said they were worried about losing their jobs.
They did not say they were worried about the health hazards of digging large holes just metres away from dead bodies, the possible contamination of underground water due to the proximity to the graves, not to mention the sacrilege of what they were doing.
Mining activities at the Norton cemetery were apparently only suspended after the press exposed the story and Environmental Management Agency (Ema) stepped in to halt the excavations which have apparently been going on since 2010.
Why did it take a news story in the press before Ema noticed that 15 people and a large earth moving machine digging up huge mounds of soil next to a cemetery?
These are hardly activities being undertaken covertly or under cover of darkness.
They had been going on for nearly three years and Ema should have noticed them and put a stop to them long ago.
Sadly, such activities are not an isolated incident as Ema would easily find out if they were to leave their offices and get out and look at the environment they are charged with protecting.
In Marondera fences around the main cemetery have disappeared, sweet potato-beds have been dug and planted within the cemetery boundary; tractors are ploughing alongside the graveyard and pit sand excavations have left cavernous holes.
Neither the municipality nor Ema seem interested in the devastation, perhaps they are waiting to be exposed in the press before they do their jobs, or perhaps they are waiting for a tragedy of contaminated water as the cemetery lies close to a stream. It is a stream in a wetland that is now all but destroyed, ravaged by fires, illegal cultivation, and widespread felling of indigenous Musasa woodland.
Every year the self apportioned plots push further into the woodland, more trees come down and neither the municipality nor Ema do anything.
For four years there’s been a war going on in municipalities about who’s in charge (Zanu PF or MDC) and who holds the keys to the bank accounts, houses, cars and other Council assets which in reality belong to the ratepayers and not the office bearers.
While councillors have been busy trading insults, sabotaging equipment and protecting their own positions, towns and cities everywhere are collapsing all around them.
There is enough work for Ema to do in towns and cities around the country to keep them busy for years.
They have the mandate to do the job and the legislation to back them up.
Ema officials must come out of their offices and move around the suburbs, see for themselves what is going on and then take action against the perpetrators, including municipalities, who have been unable and unwilling to meet the responsibilities of their ratepayers for a very long time.
Have you checked on the graves of your family and friends lately?