A glimmer of hope for Mbare’s sanitation problems?

By Elia Ntali

The raw sewage streams that the hostels in Mbare have become so accustomed to may soon be a thing of the past if plans by the City of Harare to clean up the mess and repair burst pipes are anything to go by.

Harare City plans to upgrade the hostels which are now resemble a sorry sight of their  former glory, as the local authority’s quest to achieve world class city status by 2025 gathers momentum.

A  health time bomb had indeed been  looming for residents of Mbare’s Shawasha, Matapi, Nenyere and Mbare flats where council workers reside although research has shown that many are not council workers but those that have migrated from rural areas over the past two decades.

With more than 20 000 people residing in the dilapidated hostels, disasters emanating from water borne diseases become a natural consequence.

Raw sewage continue to flow from worn out pipes and residents have to brave the difficult conditions that they are living under, worse still with the rain season upon us the situation becomes tricky.

Inside the hostels people are living like ‘animals’, toilets and bathrooms are flooded with human waste and stinking flowing water that has led to some residents constructing ridges at their doorsteps.

On the other side of the bathrooms and toilets are sinks that have for long collapsed and are sometimes used as toilets, worse still some residents still wash their kitchen utensils in the sinks.

The Council has plans to demolish or upgrade some of its obsolete Mbare hostels to pave way for the construction of 10 000 modern housing units.

Harare is embarking on an auditing process to authenticate the volume of inhabitants in hostels for planning purposes.

“Our position as council on the Mbare flats is that they need to be upgraded into family units, so we are looking at funding to achieve that goal but at the moment what we are doing is we are carrying out an audit to authenticate the people who are staying in those flats as the people renting to council,” said Harare City spokesperson Mr Michael Chideme

As part of the upgrading process, council plans to deduct 10 percent from rentals paid by residents and allocate it to refurbishment of the  hostels.

Council is however hamstrung by the general laxity by residents to honour their monthly payments as little is available in council coffers to capacitate its operations.

“We are saying 10 percent of all the rentals paid for Mbare hostels should go towards the maintenance of infrastructure at the hostels but the problem we are facing is low payments by those who are residing so if they pay it will mean the 10 retention to maintain infrastructure is available and the 10 percent is different from any other 10 percent as it will focus on the hostels alone” he said.

Most residents have been paying rentals to third parties; a scenario that Chideme says is untenable.

“What we have been doing is to remove third party rentals, we are saying the one we find in the house is the one we give council lease agreement, we need to avoid a scenario whereby one pays rentals to a person who stays in Borrowdale yet the flat belongs to council.”

Mbare Councillor Martin Matinyanya recently revealed that the City will partner a Chinese company, China-Huashi and the Infrastructure Development Bank of Zimbabwe (IDBZ) who will provide mortgage finance for the project, expected to see the construction of 500 three-bed roomed houses, 4 500 two bed-roomed units, 4 500 one-bed roomed units and 500 bedsitters, all with ablution facilities.

The state of affairs in Mbare cannot go unnoticed as residents from the hostels continue to live under conditions that can only be described as inhuman as one resident puts it.

“It is like we are in an animal farm as you can see that raw sewer is flowing every where and this is as a result of worn out pipes that have not been repaired” said one vegetable vendor

“This is how we are living young man, it is by the grace of God that we are alive and we have lost faith in the council” said James Choto a resident.

Ablution facilities in these hostels are in a sorry state as they can not sustain the ever-growing population and at times “flying toilets” plastics full of human excreta are observed in open spaces.

Whilst so much blame is laid on the city council for poor service delivery, negligence on the part of the residence can also be cited as they continue to do the unimaginable. A snap survey around most high density suburbs of Harare revealed high concentration of spontaneous dumping of garbage

“Yes, we may blame the council for not paying attention to our needs, but we as residents we need to make sure that we maintain our toilets and every facility that gives us life, are the city fathers landlords or tenants in these hostels?” said  60 year old Veronica Kahari.

A carbon copy of conditions at Shawasha is also the order of the day at Nenyere, Matapi and Matererini hostels where thousands of lives are at risk of contracting water borne diseases that emanate from man made Mukuvisi river tributaries.

Tonderai Mundawarara who resides in Nenyere hostels says “It will be nice if the council comes up with the idea of refurbishing the hostels since it has been a health time bomb”

The number of inhabitants in Mbare hostels has been swelling due to rural-urban migration, and the hostels have been overwhelmed by the ever increasing population in need of accommodation. Those who reside in the hostels pay $10 monthly rentals to the City council.

Accommodation has been a perennial problem for Harare council and it currently has a housing backlog of over 500 000 home seekers.

The hostels were built during the colonial era with the capacity to accommodate men coming to the capital for work. Men would work for a few days at a time and then return to their families in the rural areas

In 2008 a cholera outbreak claimed the lives of more than 400 people and it will be in the best interest of Zimbabweans at large to avert such a scenario as the situation in Mbare poses a health time bomb.




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  • Ray Mbada

    For your own information, people who reside in Mbare as bonafide residence have since lost hope and the rentals you are talking about here are politically figured otherwise people are paying more than 60 dollars to swim in human waste. City of Harare workers have since abandoned the area but they are getting their salaries every month. When I was issued with accommodation in this, now rotten, area in around 1974 it was so clean and shining. Municipal supervisors had their offices situated within a radius of thirty to fifty meters away from each hostel and they made sure cleaning is done on daily bases, rentals are paid monthly and and renewal of cards (accommodation cards) is done all the time.

    Today, the management is after money and they think the Rhodesian government was oppressive to apply such close supervision when in actual fact, the place is too busy to be manned from a distant. Also, the home industries along Mupedzanhamo, Siyasoo, Shawasha grounds and all street vendors use the toilets in the same flats carelessly since most of them stay far in other locations. Order should begin with the market places and home industries surrounding and then lastly we can talk about these flats.