CLOSE to 15 years since it was established, residents in Mbundane in Umguza District, adjacent to Mganwini (Bulawayo) still have no water connected to their households with residents forced to illegally construct Blair toilets and dig wells where they draw sewer contaminated water for reuse.
Residents in the suburb have been operating without key amenities as the Bulawayo City Council is refusing to connect them to their water and sewer reticulation system, arguing that the suburb does not fall under its jurisdiction despite it being located just at the boundary between the City of Bulawayo and Umguza. In 2017 there was a hope for the residents, when BCC and Umguza RDC signed a memorandum of understanding to end the dispute between the two authorities. BCC indicated then that it was setting aside funds to connect the suburb.
However, three years after the signing of the MoU, a visit to the suburb revealed that residents were in more dire straits.
The whole suburb with 2 000 households is relying on one manual borehole for water. Some residents have even resorted to dig open wells close to a sewer infested stream, popularly known as Phekiwe which feeds into the heavily polluted Umguza River. The residents use the water from the wells to water their gardens, wash clothes and even their utensils so as to save the water which they get from the single borehole.
So dangerously located are the open wells that go up to 20 metres deep that residents revealed that every rainy season a number of people slip and fall in, but fortunately no death has been recorded to date. Mbundane residents water chairperson, Mrs Makanyara Moyo said they were surprised that officials from the Bulawayo City Council were quick to explain to residents and the Government on the water situation in the city and totally ignore the plight of Mbundane. She accused the local authority of treating them inhumanely. She said there was now a need for authorities to come to their aid.
“I built my house in 2008 and moved here in 2012, since then we have no water supplies, let alone any sewer reticulation. When we got here, we would go to the bush to relieve ourselves, only when it was dark, as we had no other option. It was embarrassing because I would meet young children but we had no choice.
“The property developer, Mehluli Khumalo, at one point tried to illegally connect water to the suburb but it lasted just a couple of days before BCC cut us off. We have been to every relevant office at BCC, Umguza RDC and also the Government offices but nothing seems to come to fruition, we remain the forgotten residents of Mbundane,” said Mrs Moyo.
The residents’ chairperson took the news crew to an open area which she claimed was initially meant to be a shopping mall but residents had since turned it into an open defecation area within the suburb. Before one even reaches the area, they are met with a heavy stench with used tissue paper and newspapers flying all over the place.
“We now have three phases in the suburb and we all rely on just one borehole, those that afford go to the nearby plots where they buy water for one Rand a bucket. When BCC signed the MoU, we were made to pay some money under the pretext that it was to pay for our connection but nothing has happened to date.
“We wish someone would tell us what to do in order to get water. BCC speaks of the Luveve water contamination but what are they saying of residents that are openly using sewer contaminated water here in Mbundane,” said Mrs Moyo.
Umguza RDC ward 16 Councillor Simbarashe Manaka, who also stays in Mbundane revealed that they had reached a point of near surrender as no one seemed to care.
“I went to BCC a couple of weeks ago and was told the $253 paid by residents in 2018 for the connection of water was not enough as it had been eroded by inflation but this money was paid when the rate was still 1:1 (ZW to US$) and over 1 000 households paid. I even suggested that they at least connect community taps like what happened in Cowdray Park Hlalani Kuhle but nothing seems to be happening.
“What is confusing is that when you go to Umguza RDC they will tell us they have no power in the situation as the developer did not handover the project to them, they further claimed that if they are to intervene they would have to repossess and handover the project to another contractor, which is now impossible because beneficiaries have already constructed houses,” said Clr Manaka.
Contacted for comment Bulawayo Town Clerk, Mr Christopher Dube said their major hiccup was the suburb’s lack of the relevant infrastructure for them to be able to connect water and sewer.
“I can confirm that we collected $253 from each family but when we had to connect, we discovered that the infrastructure which was meant to be put in place by the developer was not up, this thereby being a major setback in the scheme. As it stands, we now have to connect a larger area of which we only have the capacity to connect 150 households. We now need to improve our off-site infrastructure to support the whole project but it is not an easy thing as it requires a lot of money, but we won’t neglect the suburb because it falls under our master plan,” said Mr Dube.
According to the Presidential Proclamation 15E of 2004 and the subsequent Statutory Instruments that created the metropolitan provinces of Bulawayo and Harare, metropolitan boundaries were declared as covering a radius of up to 40 kilometres, most of these areas are currently under the jurisdiction of Umguza RDC.