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As BCC dithers, Burombo Flats crisis deepens

Pipes that were purchased six months ago for the refurbishment of the sewer system at Burombo Flats in Ward 8, Nguboyenja, are still lying idle, as the Bulawayo City Council (BCC) has no resources to install them.

Occupants at Burombo Flats live among raw effluent flowing from burst sewer pipes, uncollected garbage coupled with water shortages where dozens of families fetch water from one tap source.

So terrible is the situation that a football pitch next to the flats resembles a pond of sewerage while sewer manholes that have been damaged spew more raw effluent on the ground.

Two weeks ago, a man fell inside the manhole, luckily, he was rescued by fellow occupants who now fear for the safety of their children.

The dilapidated buildings, which are an eyesore, have poor lighting and occupants alleged a girl was raped recently in the corridor by a perpetrator who took advantage of the darkness.

As if that is not enough, both females and males including children occupants share one toilet, as other lavatories in the flat broke down.

Makokoba Member of Parliament, James Sithole purchased the sewer pipes for the occupants using the Constituency Development Funds (CDF) this year.

These pipes were delivered to a council warehouse in January 2022 but are still stored there.

This was disclosed during a tour of Burombo Flats on Thursday by Ward 8 Councilor Edwin Ndlovu, who was accompanied by his Ward Development Committee.

Ndlovu told the Burombo occupants he had engaged BCC to act immediately as the situation was dire.

“We have seen the sewer challenges and leaking pipes. Luckily, the MP through the CDF donated pipes which have to be fitted so the toilets can be usable. The pipes are not yet fitted because the council does not have enough resources,” he said.

“As we know ratepayers are paying bills using the local currency -the ZimDollar which is not attractive to service providers. Therefore, the council failed to fix pipes in time.”

Ndlovu claimed BCC has promised council workers would attend to the situation in two weeks’ time to fit those pipes.

“However, the pipes are still inadequate, they are for one flat and we still need more pipes for the two other flats,” he said.

The occupants recalled a promise to act on Burombo made by former Minister of Health and Child Care, Obadiah Moyo in October 2018 who condemned the flats as unfit for human habitation.

Moyo pledged this in the company of council officials but nothing has been done since then.

“I will ask city council officials to make a follow up on that pledge,” Ndlovu said, who was displeased with the state of affairs.

“The place is very, very dirty and really not fit for humans to stay here. I will engage the city council to try and make the place habitable and fix the sewer. At the same time, we urge residents to clean their place because no one will come and clean the place for them.”

Chairperson of Burombo Flats, Moffat Nkomo, told CITE that their main challenges were the sewer flow, lack of toilets and lack of lighting.

“Each flat has about 55 rooms without counting the kitchen. At night, one fears to be strangled, as it would be dark. Our children are no longer happy and free, especially when it becomes dark. We are also living in fear that one day you will hear your child scream. Some families have resorted to putting bulbs on the door to shine light on the corridors while others have no money to buy bulbs,” he said.

“Our main request is for BCC to please fix the pipes, the sewer and lighting. It’s dangerous to go out after 8pm. Most of the people will be indoors, afraid of what may happen should they venture out.”

Nkomo also said using one toilet was ‘very’ unhygienic.

“When you find someone inside the toilet, one opts to use a bucket in their room then dispose of the contents in the morning.  Council must also bring its graders to remove all the dirt,” he said, noting the occupants’ pay rates to council.

Another occupant, Patricia Sibanda, who has lived at the flats for 45 years said they survived there by ‘God’s grace.’

“I grew up here and I am now 57 years old. I am now a widow but have five children and six grandchildren. I look after my grandchildren. This place is filthy, especially the toilets. Plus sharing toilets is not advisable because you can meet up with gangsters in there and our children can be raped,” she said.

“12 families on the ground floor are sharing one toilet. Also imagine when one has diarrhoea and desperately needs to use the toilet and finds someone in there. People are forced to use a bucket but where will they dispose of those contents and the embarrassment seen carrying a bucket.”

 Sibanda added lighting was a challenge so some families contributed ZWL$200 each to maintain their electrical connection.

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