IT is an early Wednesday morning and Winnet Mutsvedu, a resident of Mbare flats in Harare, is finishing cleaning a small room she shares with her husband and five children.
It is a room measuring three metres by three metres. She is suddenly alarmed by a group of children knocking simultaneously on her door.
“Mhamha vhurai door, mwana achekwa gumbo nebhodhoro (Mum, open the door, the baby has been cut by a bottle,)” one of them shouts.
She rushes downstairs to find her third born Rutendo lying in agony besides a huge garbage dump that for the past year has become a favourite playing spot for children.
It is not only in Mbare where such huge garbage dumps are found. The central business district as well as some residential areas have in recent weeks witnessed the rapid mushrooming of garbage dumps due to the failure to collect refuse by the city authorities.
The non-collection of rubbish has been worsened by the confusion surrounding the concession agreement to design, build and operate the Harare Pomona Waste Management facility and the waste-to-energy power plant by Netherlands-registered company Geogenix BV.
The agreement, which was approved by cabinet in February this year and enforced by Local Government minister July Moyo, has seen council’s refuse trucks being turned away due the authority’s failure to pay the required US$40 per every tonne of garbage dumped at the site.
“Living in such unhealthy conditions has become unbearable for us as Mbare flats residents. Every aspect of our lives in engraved in dirt, that space for our kids to play has been taken away by the rubbish dumps that are everywhere here,” Mutsvedu says.
“One of my children had her foot cut by a bottle when she was playing with her friends this morning at one of the countless dump sites we have here and not so long ago, my neighbour’s six-year-old fell in a raw sewage pond situated behind this flat.”
Residents from other Harare residential suburbs such as Warren Park and Greendale echoed Winnet’s sentiments, saying that council’s failure to collect refuse was resulting in the emergence of numerous undesignated garbage dumping sites.
“Everyone has now resorted to emptying their bins at any secluded place they can find because for the past months the city council trucks haven’t been coming through,” said Masimba Tinarwo, a Warren Park D resident.
“We cannot keep our bins once they are full, hence we are opting to empty them elsewhere, even if it means by the roadside. If things are to continue like this, a major cholera outbreak is inevitable,” said Mirriam Chirunga from Greendale.
Commuters and vendors who sell their wares at different bus terminuses, including Market Square and Copa Cabana, have also found themselves having to deal with the terrible stench being produced by the huge garbage dumps currently rocking the central business district.
Combined Harare Residents Trust spokesperson Reuben Akili said that the failure to collect refuse is emanating from poor management of financial resources and lack of prioritisation of service delivery in council expenditure.
“We believe that non-collection of refuse is emanating from poor management of financial resources and lack of prioritisation of service delivery in the council expenditure,” Akili said.
“We still hold our position that the 15 refuse trucks purchased by the city in 2017 must be delivered to complement the newly acquired fleet of tipper trucks. The city spends so much on soccer and trips than refuse collection or service provision, which is not proper and reasonable.”
Harare mayor Jacob Mafume acknowledged the city council’s failure to collect refuse and highlighted that, going forward, it is going to be a thing of the past.
“We have started a dump-clearing exercise through which we hope to have cleared all the garbage in Harare in the next 30 days. Indeed, the challenge has been there and we are working on rectifying it. Service delivery should be automatic and there is no excuse,’’ Mafume said.
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