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Zimbabwe: Harare Residents Organizing “Massive” Protest Over “Cholera Time-Bomb”

September 12, 2008

Text of report by privately-owned weekly newspaper The Zimbabwe Independent website on 11 September

[Unattributed report: "Harare on Cholera Time-Bomb"]

Harare is sitting on a cholera time bomb that may detonate anytime after the failure by the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa) to repair burst sewer pipes and restore normal water supplies, the Combined Harare Residents Association (CHRA) and the Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR) have said.

The warning came following last week’s death of 11 people in Chitungwiza from cholera while 35 others were admitted at the dormitory city’s government hospital.

Justice Mavedzenge, CHRA information officer, told the Zimbabwe Independent that while the cholera outbreak was scientifically proven in Chitungwiza, a number of residential areas in Harare were under threat of the water-borne disease.

He said preventive measures by the government and other responsible organizations were needed in the capital.

Mavedzenge said: “Our findings reveal that serious cases of the disease can be noted in other residential places like Msasa, Letombo, Mabvuku, Tafara, Warren Park especially Warren Park 1, Mufakose, Dzivarasekwa, and Glen View, among others. We are trying to investigate whether these cases are just diarrhoea or cholera. We haven’t heard much in the low density suburbs.”

Mavedzenge said the shortage of clean water supply, exposure to raw sewage and uncollected garbage were causing the disease.

“In Mabvuku many residents are drilling wells at their homes, some of them are drilled by inexperienced people who do not have knowledge on how the sewer underground pipes were laid. They might think they have reached the water table while they have reached the sewer table,” he said.

Mavedzenge blasted Zinwa for incompetence.

“Zinwa is just defunct, it has no adequate technology and other resources and it lacks innovation. I don’t know why the government continues to defend it. My recent visit to Zinwa showed that some of the workers were ignorant of the problems while it is their duty to report to the people,” he said.

He condemned the government’s approach of taking action when a crisis has occurred, saying preventive measures should always be in place.

“The government has to wait for people to die and then they appear like they are concerned but when residents speak out raising their problems they ignore them,” said Mavedzenge.

He said CHRA was organizing a “massive” protest against the cholera crisis and the incompetence of Zinwa as well as boycotting payment of water bills.

ZADHR chairman, Douglas Gwatidzo, expressed disappointment at the government’s failure to address sanitation problems and provide clean water.

He said: “We are sitting on a time bomb that can explode anytime as a result of the unavailability of a reliable source of water, the flow of raw sewage in residential areas and piling of uncollected garbage around Harare and surrounding areas.”

Gwatidzo said raw sewage was flowing freely into Harare’s main source of water – Lake Chivero – and Zinwa has been failing to treat the water adequately, endangering the lives of residents.

Health minister David Parirenyatwa said the government had dealt with the Chitungwiza cholera outbreak.

“The situation is well controlled and cases have come down. The medication and everything else is there to ensure the proper treatment of patients. However, there is need to monitor the constant supply of clean water and improvement on sanitation so as to totally control the disease,” he said.

Efforts to get a comment from Minister of State Water Resources and Infrastructural Development, Munacho Mutezo, were fruitless at the time of going to print.

A snap survey by the Independent revealed that residents in Harare in both high and low density areas were exposed to raw sewage.

I n St Mary’s, Chitungwiza, children could be seen playing barefooted in sewage streams in the streets while in areas like Zengeza 3 Extension, Chigovanyika and Unit O, raw sewage was gushing out and flowing in rivulets.

Originally published by The Zimbabwe Independent website, Harare, in English 11 Sep 08.

(c) 2008 BBC Monitoring Africa. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.