‘Sunshine’ City Down In The Dumps

HARARE –– once dubbed the sunshine city with an abundance of clean water, good roads and well-manicured gardens –– is today in the world news, not because of its beauty, but its association with the deadly cholera outbreak.

The capital has since October been under the spotlight after the outbreak of the epidemic largely blamed on the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa)’s incapability to supply clean potable water, and unblock sewer pipes.

The cholera outbreak has since been declared a national disaster and has so far claimed an estimated 1 000 lives.]

The outbreak in Harare epitomises the dearth of service delivery in the capital in the past decade –– things have literally fallen apart. Harare has become hazardous to its estimated three million residents and this has seen the diplomatic community, civil society and the corporate world coming in to clean up the city in an effort to combat the highly contagious disease.

The aid organisations have seen it easier to work directly with the Harare City Council and not with central government. This has not gone down well with government officials who believe that all aid must be channelled through government ministries.

In an interview this week Harare mayor Much Masunda said the diplomatic community, civil society and the corporate world had come together to help clean up the capital and reclaim its past status.

Masunda said his appeal to the diplomatic community to help in the fight against cholera was being heeded.
“I told them that they are stakeholders in the city as they live here, work here and their residences are here,” Masunda, a respected lawyer, said. “The diplomats pledged that they will channel their help to us through United Nations entities.”

The United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) had earlier this week received more than US$20 million, which was used to procure a four months supply of aluminum sulphate to be used in the treatment of water in the country, and procurement of water bowsers.

Masunda said the chemical supplies are already trickling into the country and that Unicef has asked the government for unfettered access to all affected suburbs in the city, especially in the high density suburbs. A non-governmental Dutch organisation, Hivos, has offered US$200 000 to sponsor the cleaning up of Budiriro, where the cholera outbreak impacted heavily.

Masunda said the revival of Harare’s twinning arrangement with the German city of Munich this year had resulted in 400 000 euros worth of drugs being delivered to Beatrice Road Infectious Diseases hospital for distributions to satellite clinics. He said a further 100 000 euros in aid from Germany was also on its way.

The city of Harare has also started to rehabilitate broken-down vehicles with technical assistance from the German organisation GTZ.

The first case of cholera in Harare was reported in Budiriro and at one point the army dispatched soldiers to clean up the area and banned all street vendors from the suburb. However, because of the economic meltdown, the exercise was futile, as vending is the source of income for many unemployed people living in the high density suburbs.

In an effort to spruce up the image of the city, Radar Holdings and Border Timbers have offered to give for free all the material needed to patch up potholes in Harare while Lafarge proposed to repair all potholes along the Acturus road from Kamfinsa to Manresa road and to collect garbage from Mabvuku.

Masunda said the council’s clinics, which are being used as quarantine centres for cholera, were getting help from the Red Cross and Celebrate Health –– a subsidiary of Celebration Centre –– who have offered to supplement the income of health service workers in hard currency.

The mayor said two private engineers – chief executive officer of Hubert Davies, Richard Maasdorp, and KW Blasting boss Keith Battye –– offered to carry out a study on long-term solutions to the water woes.

The engineers were currently waiting to be granted access to some documents in the custody of Zinwa.  Most suburbs have gone for more than three months without running water and most roads are now littered with potholes, endangering the lives of motorists and damaging vehicles.

One would be forgiven for dismissing as a dream reports that Harare’s beauty once captivated world leaders in the early 1990s when two high profile events were hosted in the city –– the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in 1991 and the All-Africa Games in 1995.

During the All-Africa Games, Harare hosted more than 6 000 athletes from 46 countries, but 13 years later the “sunshine” of the capital has been eclipsed by piles of uncollected garbage, and burst water and blocked sewer pipes, which are now a common sight in the central business district.

On almost every major road in Harare’s central business district there is a burst water pipe resulting in the loss of precious treated water.

Flowing raw sewage is a common sight in Mufakose, Mabvuku, Tafara, Highfield (Canaan Engineering) and Dzivarasekwa –– some of the country’s poorest townships.

Residents in Mabvuku have resorted to digging drainage trenches across their yards to avoid raw sewage from spilling into their homes.

Potholes, commonly referred to as “craters” because of their deep nature, have established themselves as permanent features on the capital’s roads.

The Combined Harare Residents Association (CHRA) in a report published this year said deep potholes found in most roads in Highfield (Canaan Engineering), Mufakose, Kambuzuma and Mabvuku were becoming a cause of concern for motorists.

“According to our reports, the council has not yet started any work to repair the roads. Whilst CHRA appreciates that the council inherited a ‘dead’ municipality from Ignatius Chombo’s (Minister of Local government) illegal and corrupt commissions, we urge the council to commence the road maintenance programme and save the motorists from the nightmare they continue to experience as they drive on the roads,” said CHRA in the report.

BY LUCIA MAKAMURE