Yvonne Ncube, Chronicle Reporter
More than 50 households in Old Magwegwe suburb in Bulawayo are sitting on a health time-bomb as raw sewage from burst pipes continues to flow into their homes thereby exposing them to diseases such as cholera and typhoid.
Disgruntled residents accused the Bulawayo City Council (BCC) of failing to attend to burst pipes which they say is putting their lives at risk.
The raw sewage is flowing into people’s yards and residents say they have been living under these unhygienic conditions for three months.
They said they have reported the burst pipes numerous times but no action is being taken by the council to address the problem.
A Chronicle news crew established that many suburbs such as Mpopoma, Makokoba, Luveve, Emakhandeni and Cowdray Park are similarly affected.
Mrs Pamela Ngwenya (62) from Old Magwegwe said they have been using buckets to relieve themselves because her toilet has been blocked for three months.
“We have been living under these conditions for three months now and my fear is that we might have an outbreak of typhoid or cholera.
We have reported the burst pipes and these blocked toilets several times but council is not responding. Children and adults are having running stomachs and we suspect this is because of this raw sewage which is all over,” she said.
Mrs Ngwenya said the stench from the raw sewage was unbearable and flies had become nuisance.
She said they had since erected a temporary bathroom outside the house as they cannot use the shower in the toilet.
“I can no longer eat my vegetables because the garden is flooded by raw sewage,” said Mrs Ngwenya
Her husband Mr Paya Ngwenya (72) said he reported the blocked toilet and burst pipes several times and each time he reports he is referred to WhatsApp customer service.
“As old as I am, I am being referred to the WhatsApp by council officials instead of them engaging the relevant department. It’s now diffuclt to cook or eat food because flies are all over,” he said.
Mr Ngwenya said when residents pay their bills, they expect council to provide the services such as attending to burst sewage pipes.
Another resident Mrs Sibonisiwe Bhebhe said children in the suburb were at risk of contracting waterborne diseases as they were playing in pools of raw sewage.
Last year a diarrhoea outbreak in Luveve suburb killed 13 people and infected nearly 2 000.
BCC corporate communication manager Mrs Nesisa Mpofu could not be reached for comment yesterday but last week council released a statement signed by the Town Clerk Mr Christopher Dube saying that Covid-19 had greatly affected service delivery.
“The City of Bulawayo would like to advise the public that it’s sewer task teams have been affected by the rising number of Covid-19 cases. As a result, this has negatively affected service delivery resulting in a backlog of sewer chokes that need to be attended to.
“While the precautionary measures of masking up, social distancing and hand sanitising have been meticulously observed as well as vaccination is underway, this has not averted the spread of Covid-19 among the council staff especially outside the work environment,” he said.
Mr Dube said in some cases whole teams were quarantined after testing positive to Covid-19.
“This has greatly reduced staffing levels available to attend to outstanding sewer blockages throughout the city hence negatively impacting on the reaction time to attend to sewer reports.
“As a consequence, a further increase of the sewer blockage backlog might be observed,” he said.
Mr Dube said council was exploring ways to address the situation.
“The City of Bulawayo, thus, wishes to apologise to its valued customers for any inconvenience that is likely to be caused,” said Mr Dube. — @SeehYvonne