BULAWAYO’S newly-elected mayor, David Coltart, a veteran politician who once served as Education minister, has come up with a cocktail of measures to restore Zimbabwe’s second-largest city to its former glory.
He admits that it will not be a walk in the park, but he hopes that after his five-year term, the city will be better off than now.
Bulawayo used to be one of the cleanest cities in Africa, but is now an eyesore. The city has been infested with street vendors and heaps of litter.
Coltart has promised to take it one day at a time to restore cleanliness in the City of Kings.
“My first priority is to try and clean up the city, it is in an absolutely disgusting state with litter everywhere, with open sewers and tied into that are several allegations of corruption. So we need to clean up the city and that involves working obviously with municipality departments and also dealing with local businesses and residents,” he said.
He said the best way forward is to have everyone on board to clean the city.
“Initially we have to adopt a character approach to ask the residents and businesses to clean up their own surroundings to help us, but, then inevitably we are going to have to move towards enforcement of the city bylaws where they are breached, that posts obligation to some residents not to litter and to keep their own premises tidy and clean and so that is an absolute priority,” said Coltart.
Once clean, the city will ensure that the standard is maintained by incorporating recycling in refuse collection and punish all errant elements.
“Obviously once we have had a go in cleaning up the city, we are going to try and keep the city clean and we have to look to recycling programmes whereby unemployed people who collect bottles and the like can be paid for the delivery of such plastic bottles. Hopefully, get them recycled and try to attract investment into the city of a private company that does recycling of plastic and then ultimately we are going to have to enforce the law, revisit the bylaws to make sure that there are stringent penalties imposed for people who litter and even harsher penalties for people who dump, for example building waste,” he said.
Perennial water rationing has made life difficult for residents and business operators. This has been mainly because the city lies in a dry region, but Coltart says the city’s water supply should gradually improve.
“Bulawayo’s water supply remains a constant worry and because of the relatively poor rains this past rainy season and because of the danger of El Niño forming in the Pacific and a drought, this is a major priority area.”
There was much touting of the Second Republic’s efforts to build the Lake Gwayi-Shangani in order to ease the water crisis in the city, but Coltart says the dam will not offer the relief sought.
“In truth, the Gwayi-Shangani project will not provide any short to medium term solution and so whilst we are grateful that that dam is being built, the reality is that it’s going to cost an enormous amount of money to pump water from Gwaye-Shangani to Bulawayo.
“The initial capital cost of installing the pipeline is also going to be enormous and it does not appear as if central government has any meaningful plan in that regard. As I have said just now, even once the pipeline pumping stations are in, the cost of pumping water all the way from Gwayi-Shangani to Bulawayo is going to be essentially expensive,” said Coltart. His plan is to see how to maximise on the existing dam infrastructure.
“So we have to look at our existing dams and our existing water reticulation system. I am told by our engineers that our water reticulation system is at least 40 years old. It is collapsing in many areas, it needs a programme of rehabilitation because there is a vast amount of water which is simply lost through leakages and the like,” said Coltart.
“Then turning to the [existing] dams, there are proposals to try and utilise our largest dams efficiently, that is Insiza, and I have already started talking to our engineers to look into how that water can be utilised more effectively,” he added.
He called for resilience and discipline in water use among residents as the plan takes shape. “So none of these issues are overnight solutions. We are going to have to encourage the residents of Bulawayo to save water in whatever way they can so that we do not face a crisis next year,” he added.
Closely related to the issue of water is that of water reticulation and sewage that has become a menace in communities.
“Tied to that is the issue that I have raised before, regarding our sewage works which are not functioning properly and the use of treated water which of course others use for human consumption but is used for such issues as keeping Barbourfields soccer stadium quickly watered along with, you know, school grounds and the like and that saves water and that needs to be addressed.
Sanitation and health
Sewage bursts are not only an eyesore and heavy on the nose, they are breeding grounds for diseases. Coltart has also promised to capacitate the city with the needed ambulances, taking into consideration the financial constraints.
“Once we have stabilised matters, there are several pressing issues. The most pressing issue from a health perspective is to get our sewage plants running. I have been advised by our engineering department that most of our sewage plants are running way below capacity, we are discharging raw sewage into Umguza River, which is creating a really serious health hazard. So we need to tackle that.
“Then tied into that is the issue of ambulances that we only have five of the city’s required number of ambulances functioning and only four fire engines against the city’s requirement of 10 and so that is an obvious area of priority; it needs to be addressed.
“Once we go beyond that, we have to start working on the city’s roads, and the city’s businesses and buildings and infrastructure after we have addressed these preliminary issues,” said Coltart.
Bulawayo, like many other local authorities, has been at the centre of corruption storms, but Coltart will not have that in his team.
“Tied to that is to address the scourge of corruption. I have received numerous reports regarding corruption. Of course I don’t know whether they are valid or not, but those reports are there and one of the first things I need to do is to look at existing contracts to then see how they were entered into and to make sure they were actually entered into correctly and where they haven’t and if we are able to legally try to terminate those contracts in the best interests of the citizens of Bulawayo,” he said.