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Senior citizen repeatedly complains of burst sewer, then dies of cholera



IN July 2021, Kambuzuma octogenarian Effie Dziva became the subject of a news feature in The Sunday Mail, bemoaning the danger of contracting diarrhoea or cholera due to the lack of seriousness by the City of Harare in dealing with perennial sewer bursts on her doorstep.


Two years later, the sewer tank overflowing with effluent for days on end has caused her death.

Dziva succumbed to cholera on Wednesday afternoon after having co-existed with sewage effluent for six days.

She was a common feature at council offices with her monotonous complaint of sewer bursts, that would be fixed one day but then burst again the next day. She had become a common face at the local council offices.

A devout Anglican, her wish was to have her fellow women from the Anglican’s women fellowship sing for her during the funeral until her burial. Unfortunately, her house was out of bounds because of the cholera emergency and flowing sewage.

As per African culture, paying last respects to a deceased relative or neighbour means gathering at his or her household for days, singing crying and celebrating the years that they would have shared with funeral attendants.

Unfortunately, this could not be done for Gogo Dziva, who was described by all graveside speakers at Zororo Cemetery on Friday as a loving community member, hardworking and a permanent feature at Sunday services at Transfiguration circuit in Kambuzuma.

She was sick for only 24 hours. This tragedy has left her immediate family livid.

“The most disappointing thing about all this is that my grandmother was a people’s person. The funeral that is befitting for her is impossible like in Covid times. The house is immersed in sewage and enveloped by a horrible stench of raw effluent. It was not possible for us to cook for people or have people gather at the house because of sewage,” said Rudo Dziva, her granddaughter, who was with her until she took her last breathe.

Transfiguration Anglican Church members had last seen her on Sunday where she received a certificate of excellence in serving the church. She was alive and kicking.

On 1 December 2023, Dziva woke up to a regular routine of sewage bursts at her house.
As had become custom, she went to report the matter to the city council offices and she got the usual response that officers would be deployed to her house soon.

Elderly and frail as she was, she was in relatively good health when she went to report the matter.

Five days later, she could not do her routine work because cholera-like symptoms left her bedridden on Tuesday. Although she was taken to a private doctor, she was still complaining about the growling emanating from her running stomach.

On Wednesday afternoon, she died and council workers arrived at her house with the intention to fix the burst sewage on Thursday.

Her family is seething with anger. They are disappointed with the local authority which collects monthly rates but fails to deliver services.

“What pains me the most is that my aunt is the one who went to report the burst sewer, she was in good health but we are burying her here today. They only came to fix the sewer after she had died, but to what end?” said the late Dziva’s irate niece, Tafadzwa Rangisi.

Local councillor Costa Mande, although admitting that the burst sewer was only attended to after Dziva’s death, said this is because there is only one jet machine servicing Harare’s western suburbs.

“Thursday morning is when we got the jet machine to supplement water in the sewer lines. The machine couldn’t come on Wednesday as they were attending to an incident in Glen View. The single jet machine covers Glen View, Glen Norah, Highfield, Budiriro, Southerton, Kambuzuma, Mufakose, Warren Park, Cold Comfort, Kuwadzana and DZ [Dzivaresekwa],” said Mande.

He adds that city council officers responded on time but they could not work because of the unavailable machine.

“Council guys operated within time to my own knowledge as they took less than 48 hrs to attend the situation though it took them two days to clear the choke due to the foreign matter in the system. Spoons, forks, underwear, towels, pads, pampers, condoms, etc, are being thrown into the system, yet our water supply remains erratic, therefore the bursts occur regularly,” said Mande.

Harare City Council has come under fire in recent days for sponsoring city executives’
US$12 000 wasteful trip to Nyanga yet ratepayers are not getting the service delivery they pay for.

Dziva’s family felt this death could have been avoided if the council authorities had diverted scarce resources from executive luxury to the sewage crisis in the middle of the cholera outbreak, but their priorities are upside down.

“I personally called the councillor (Mande) and he promised that the sewer burst will be fixed, but help came too late. We did follow-ups with him, but he kept saying there is only one machine. It doesn’t make sense that we only have one machine to service Glen View, Budiriro, Glen Norah, Highfield, Kuwadzana. Do the machines cost millions? If we take one or two of their vehicles we can probably buy machines,” said Rangisi.

Her sentiments are not isolated. Rudo Dziva, the late Effie’s granddaughter, made a speech, saying she was aware that she was at her grandmother’s funeral, there was a feeling in her heart that she would see her when they returned home.

“You know Gogo was a consistent voter every election year and she would say I am doing this for you, even when everyone was discouraging her. Unfortunately office bearers let her down. When people get posts, they should work for them. If they cannot fulfill the duties of the office, they should abdicate. Not for us to think we have a representative in council or Parliament when they do not assist us with anything,” she said.

Effie Dziva’s death evoked anger and fear.

Rudo pondered whether her grandmother would be the last to be buried in this cholera emergency.

“We have buried my grandmother today, but there are a lot of people exhibiting similar symptoms at home and children in neighbouring houses. There are a lot more who we do not even know who are suffering from this disease and we are afraid to go home, because we do not know who is next. We are going back to the same house that will welcome us with a strong stench of faecal matter, flies hovering over the effluent that is drying up. City official should be serious,” fumed Rudo Dziva.

The Dziva residence had three more people exhibiting cholera-like symptoms.

Effie Dziva is survived by her 42-year-old son. A stroke survivor, he depended on his late mother.

Her funeral did not follow all the cholera guidelines set out by the Health ministry. There were no health workers at the graveyard.

The attendants did not have any protective clothing on, a few had masks, covering their chins and not the mouth and nose.

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