HARARE – Abigail is lucky to be alive after nearly drowning in a derelict council-dug raw sewage pond in Zengeza 1 suburb as she came back from school a year ago.
Had it not been for the timely intervention of an elderly woman passer-by who saved her, the six-year-old would have been history by now.
Her case raised a stink from residents in Zengeza, fearing both a recurrence of the deadly cholera outbreak and drowning of their children in neglected council-dug raw sewage ponds.
Chitungwiza is mostly in the news for the wrong reasons, topping them is its municipality-created chaos, a direct consequence of political brinkmanship and bickering which has created a haven for get-rich-quick scams by politicians elected to power by an unsuspecting electorate.
The Daily News on Sunday took an arduous trip to Harare’s dormitory town seeking to find out the real issues by consulting the stakeholders.
Despairing, some even suggested the direct intervention of the highest office in the country, President Robert Mugabe, to this troubled town, a place infamous for children drowning in sewage ponds and desperate home-seekers spending their pensions on illegal stands built on top of anything, from rocks to sewer pipes. Our first port of call in Zimbabwe’s third largest town in terms of population was the home of the ceremonial mayor Phillip Mutoti.
Yes, there is an ongoing land audit led by deputy minister Biggie Matiza going on, investigations prompted by land barons said to have been illegally parcelling out land like confetti and pocketing the handsome proceeds.
The mayor says the barons do not even care about the ongoing audit as they are still parcelling out land.
“Only yesterday (last Saturday) someone was at my doorstep with housing cooperative receipts of a recently acquired stand with a $4 500 price tag seeking to find out from me if his transaction was above board, which clearly it was not,” mayor Mutoti told the daily News on Sunday.
Housing cooperatives have been accused of orchestrating the illegal allocation of housing stands, an allegation refuted by former deputy mayor and educationist-cum-politician Frederick Mabamba.
The United We Stand Housing Cooperative chairperson threw brickbats at council management, especially the town planning department, which he says over the years has been directly responsible for the prevailing housing chaos in the town.
He promised to show the Daily News on Sunday stands to support his allegations but efforts to contact him thereafter were fruitless.
Asked about the causes of the housing problems, the Marvellous Kumalo-led Chitungwiza Residents Trust (Chitrest) blamed both government and council: “Obtaining from our surveys, the government and Chitungwiza council caused the mushrooming of this housing mess, for example, the Nyatsime Housing Project fiasco.”
Kumalo said in 2006, council sold more than 15 000 stands to home-seekers in Manyame but most are yet to receive them.
And to worsen matters, home-seekers were told to top up $900 after dollarisation, but to no avail. These people were bona fide lodgers on the housing waiting list, some of them who again were later duped by these dubious housing cooperatives. If council had met their side of the bargain, that would have been averted.”
“It is our sincere hope as ratepayers that the city must have a clearly defined housing policy on a first come, first served basis not the haphazard manner in which it currently operates. If council was meeting its obligations, no sane person would approach bogus cooperatives.”
The trust also urged council to adhere to the town’s master plan and with the assistance of government, should prioritise resolving the Manyame housing mess.
What then will happen to those who illegally issued the stands is the question on everyone’s lips in Chitungwiza as residents awaits the Housing minister to take action or as one old lady aptly put it “Izvi zvaakutoda vaMugabe pachavo (Only president Mugabe can rescue us from this predicament).”