Ivan Zhakata Herald Correspondent
Harare is sitting on a health time bomb as most of its public toilets are in bad shape and no longer fit for use.
While council has refurbished public toilets in some parts of the central business district (CBD), those in high-density suburbs remain a cause for concern.
Most of the toilets no longer have running water and functional washing basins and flushing systems.
Poor maintenance and irregular cleaning have resulted in users shunning these facilities and choosing to relieve themselves outside.
A recent survey showed that most public toilets around the city, especially in busy areas were either out of order or had closed despite being critical infrastructure.
A classic example is that of public toilets at the intersection of Bank and Leopold Takawira streets that have been closed for some time.
The toilets are near a commuter omnibus rank for people going to southern suburbs such as Glen Norah, Chitungwiza and Southlea Park.
The air around the toilet reeks of urine and one has to be careful not to step on faeces.
So putrid is the smell that shoppers who used to walk on nearby pavements have created new crossing points.
At the busy Mbare Musika, only one toilet was functional, though it neither had sinks nor flushing systems.
Human waste was all over as there was no water, while the urinary was out of order.
In Highfield, at Machipisa Shopping Centre, the toilet was closed, but the one at the bus terminus was adopted by Batanai Affirmative Youths Trust.
The youths have turned the facility into a pay toilet and are charging $2.
The toilets are in a good state.
Toilets at Glen Norah B shops, Chitubu Shopping Centre and Specimen at Glen Norah A shops are not working despite all of them being popular spots.
Thomas Mabvire of Glen Norah expressed sadness over the poor state of public toilets in their area, saying council was taking residents for granted.
“These public toilets have been closed for quite some time because there is no water. The toilets were not even maintained and people were relieving themselves everywhere,” he said.
“I do not know why council is hanging on to facilities that are not adding any value to ratepayers. They should refurbish them.”
Another resident who only identified herself as Mai Musara had no kind words as she accused city fathers of spending money recklessly.
“Council is not even apologetic. We are at risk of disease outbreaks here because people are relieving themselves in nearby bushes because the public toilets are not working,” she said.
“The last outbreaks that occurred here were caused by boreholes that were contaminated by human waste due to open defecations. It appears council has not learnt anything from the experience or it’s just a case of our city fathers being arrogant.”
Toilets at Charge Office, Copacabana, Market Square and Chinhoyi Street bus terminuses were fairly maintained with council workers charging $2.
In low-density suburbs, the toilets were maintained and some have been adopted by local businesses.
However, at shopping centres such as Runnivile/Glenroy, Sunridge Shops and Marimba Shops among many others have no public toilets.
City of Harare spokesperson Mr Michael Chideme could not be reached for comment.
Town clerk Engineer Hosea Chisango is on record saying council was working on reviving ablution facilities across the city.
“We are calling on the private sector to come in and partner with us whenever we can. They can put up those pay toilets which are well maintained.
“The city will also be putting special services facilities which are cheaper, but we need to cooperate with the private sector in this regard,” Eng Chisango said.