Activists fume over Harare failure to avert cholera disaster

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By Leopold Munhende

A Harare pressure group is up in arms with a city official who allegedly ignored pleas by residents to attend to some burst sewer pipes in Glen View suburb with attempts to link the current cholera outbreak to the scene.

The pandemic has killed at least five people amid reports more may have succumbed to the disease since the outbreak was declared this week.

Authorities have blamed the scourge on poor sanitation in the affected areas of Glen View and Budiriro suburbs as well as contaminated water sources.

The Community Water Alliance (CWA) was Friday left fuming, accusing one Dennis Gwiriri, the District Officer (DO) with Harare City Council of failing to avert the disaster even when warned of it.

“People in first drive raised their money to have their sewer challenge rectified but the district officer did not allow them to do so,” Joyleen Nyajuru, a resident of Glenview said at a press briefing on Friday.

She added, “Early yesterday (Thursday), I called the DO but he did not care to visit the affected area and affected families.”

Asked for comment, Gwiriri dismissed the accusations while insisting his accusers were less qualified to foresee any pending cholera disaster.

“Is she a doctor that she can identify such risks or diseases? Residents do not determine that,” said Gwiriri.

At the press briefing, Community Water Alliance national chair, Hilderberta Rwambiwa put blame on Harare city authorities for the outbreak.

“Incessant erratic water supplies and an intransigent city bureaucracy that fails to act swiftly to sewer bursts remain the single most contributor to the current and past outbreaks of cholera and typhoid,” Rwambiwa said.

“The City of Harare, through its district office in Glen View, was informed and requested to act on the sewage bursts but did not act citing fuel shortages.

“We are disappointed that the city was warned but chose to ignore these calls citing absurd reasons yet the January to August statement indicates an over 70 percent expenditure on salaries; yet they fail to render such services.”

Combined Harare Residents Association (CHRA) director Mfundo Mlilo said that council’s failure to service and provide clean water to Budiriro in the past 15 years was an indication that it did not have plans to aver similar disasters.

The most devastating cholera outbreak to hit the country since independence was the 2008-09 period in which over 4 000 Zimbabweans died while close to 100,000 were forced to seek treatment for the disease.

Coincidentally, Budiriro was the epicentre of the outbreak.