Burst Sewer Pipes Menace Haunt Byo
15 June 2021

By A Correspondent- Bulawayo residents have called on the city fathers to urgently attend to burst sewers which have become a health time bomb in the city.

In Mzilikazi and Makokoba suburbs, there are areas where raw effluent has been flowing into houses for months.

Last year in October, about 100 people, mostly children, were treated for running tummies in Mzilikazi and surrounding suburbs.

Flushing toilets in the area results in a backflow of human waste that goes into homes.

In suburbs like Old Lobengula, Magwegwe, Old Pumula, Gwabalanda and Old Luveve there are places where recurrent sewer bursts are endangering residents’ lives as they have to literally cook, eat and sleep with untreated waste at their doorsteps.

In June last year, there was a diarrhoea outbreak in Luveve suburb, which killed 13 people and infected nearly 2 000.
Raw sewerage had contaminated drinking water.

Currently, residents are battling another outbreak in Emganwini suburb.

Around S Square in Mzilikazi, the human waste has formed a stream, making it difficult for affected residents to access their homes, open windows or eat.

Residents said overflowing manholes had not been fixed since mid-December last year and they fear for their lives as some of them have little children who sometimes play in pools of effluent.

“The moment that you finish using the bathroom, everything comes out at the back and we have got used to the unpleasant smell that it produces,” said Mrs Mollyn Mapfunde.

She said the situation has caused disputes amongst neighbours because of the movement of raw sewer from household to household.

“When people use their toilets at the end of the day houses which are at the lower part of our area suffer more because the raw waste flows to their yards,” said Mrs Mapfunde.

An elderly couple, Amos and Rosemary Sithole, both over 70 years old, said the situation was traumatising.

“Since December, my husband and I have not used our bathroom and we had to liaise with our neighbours so that we could use theirs. You can imagine, as old as we are, we can’t afford to always go there every time we feel like emptying our bowels,” she said.
Residents said they could no longer recall the number of times they have called council to attend to the issue.

“We are fed up. We have lost count on the number of times we have called them. Sometimes when they show up the sewer stops flowing for a few hours and resumes,” said a resident who preferred anonymity.

Another resident who identified herself as Mrs Phiri said: “My grandchild is in primary school and takes a bath in this bathroom that has sewer flowing. As a child, how will he grow psychologically, how will this also affect the friend or friends that he mixes and mingles with at school, is this healthy?

“The same backyard that we make fire for cooking, where we do the dishes at and where our children also play is the same backyard that has been overwhelmed by the sewer, putting our lives at risk.”

Mr Samuel Chikwiza, the chairperson for Mzilikazi S Square Residents Association, said council always tells residents it is cash strapped and cannot attend to sewers adequately.

“At some point, the community sent me to talk to the city council so that they could identify the problem and the residents would raise the money that was needed to fix the problem, but I was never given a clear response,” he said.

Mr Chikwiza said residents have bought brooms to sweep up human waste every day.

“We are pleading with the authorities to step in because this place is going to turn into a disease hotspot soon,” he said.
Councillor Shadreck Sibanda, who oversees Wards 7 and 8, said the sewer reticulation system needed to be replaced.

“Initially the system was designed for a small number of people but because of the increase in the population, sewer plants have been overwhelmed resulting in bursts and blockages. The country has also been blessed with plenty of rains that have also overpowered the sewer system,” said Clr Sibanda.

Unmaintained sewer bursts in Bulawayo have become a problem in Bulawayo.

Last year the Environmental Management Agency dragged the Bulawayo City Council (BCC) to court for failing to upgrade its water treatment plants and sewer systems, which has resulted in raw sewage flowing into the water bodies which provide potable water to residents.

Such actions have violated the rights of citizens of Bulawayo and put their lives at risk.