HUNDREDS of soldiers have camped at a military base in Guinea Fowl, Gweru, stretching social amenities in the area where there are limited ablution facilities and erratic water supplies at a time there is a rise in cholera cases in various parts of the country.
As of 7 November 2023, Zimbabwe had a cumulative total of 6 685 suspected cholera cases, 48 confirmed deaths, 136 suspected cholera deaths and 1 097 confirmed cases which were reported.
The soldiers are part of the ongoing 5 Infantry Brigade routine training exercise which started on 4 November and is expected to end on 19 November.
The 5 Brigade public relations officer, Lieutenant A Chimedza, in a Press release early this week, said the training is meant to impart knowledge to army members on contemporary warfare.
“All stakeholders in the Midlands province, particularly the southern parts will witness a high volume of Military vehicle movement along Battlefields, Kwekwe, Gweru, Shurugwi, Chachacha, Zvishavane and Gweru-Chirumhanzu highway. The public should not panic since it is a routine military exercise that is going to be conducted from the 4th to the 19th of November 2023,” part of the Press release obtained by The NewsHawks reads.
“A sizable number of troops and military vehicles will be deployed in three districts, namely Chirumhanzu, Shurugwi and Zvishavane. The routine military exercise is aimed at sharpening and perfecting the ZNA and 5 Infantry Brigade in particular on its operational skills in order to enhance the troops with skills to fulfil the mandate of defending the nation from any aggressors.”
However, sources in the Guinea Fowl area said they now feared an outbreak of cholera since the army members camped without additional social amenities such as mobile toilets or water bowsers.
Gweru has perennial water challenges due to the aged pumping infrastructure at its Gwenhoro plant that is also incessantly interrupted by power outages.
There is an existing water rationing schedule in Gweru which means there are no guarantees of water supplies on all the days of the week.
Residents of Guinea Fowl said the arrival of the army members in numbers in an area without support amenities has triggered panic and fears of a cholera outbreak.
“The soldiers are staying in tents pitched in their Guinea Fowl camp which shows their number exceeds the capacity of accommodation facilities there. Most of them are now using the bush system to relieve themselves which has since triggered fears that cholera might break out in this area,” said a resident.
Another resident told The NewsHawks: “It was better if they had come with additional mobile toilets or trucks with water bowsers. We are already facing a water crisis in the area and so there is now a very big danger of a cholera outbreak in the area,”
Zimbabwe National Army spokesperson Colonel Alfios Makotore dismissed the cholera threat in a written response.
“The Zimbabwe National army would like to put it on record that the training exercise by its troops is not posing any risks of cholera,” Makotore said.
“Be informed that the reports you are getting are false.”