BCC urged to engage community plumbers to address sewer challenges

The Bulawayo City Council (BCC) has been implored to hire community plumbers to attend to frequent sewer pipe bursts which continue to plague the city.

The local authority has faced criticism from residents for taking too long to attend to sewer bursts.   

“The council does eventually attend to sewer bursts but usually delays. Sewer flows are a constant challenge. For example in Makokoba, opposite Engen Garage, almost every week, council is called in to attend to sewer bursts. When the problem is fixed, it bursts elsewhere again,” said a Bulawayo resident Edward Nare while participating at a Bulawayo Water and Sewerage Services Improvement Project Water and Service Delivery Indaba held at the Large City Hall Thursday.

Bulawayo Provincial Affairs and Devolution Minister, Judith Ncube, suggested that the local authority engage community plumbers to ease the workload.

“This is just a suggestion. It was once a proposal but maybe we need to seriously look into it. When you go to Botswana, there are volunteer police, whose services are very effective and people are afraid of them. We also had caregivers, who were doing a sterling job under city health. I’m thinking aloud that it wouldn’t help us to have such a situation and use community plumbers,” she said.

“We can say let’s have community plumbers per ward. If we have two or three people well equipped, it may help solve challenges. I once visited Magwegwe  North, where I even informed the city engineer that the situation was bad. Residents were crying from the sewer that was even coming out of the kitchen sink.”

Minister Ncube advised BCC to introduce the system, as residents are suffering.

“If we have community plumbers within a ward they can easily assist with the basics but if there are complicated sewer bursts that’s when residents can invite professionals.  Go to the Pelandaba – Sizane Turn, it’s not a good situation and doesn’t paint a good picture. Let’s look at possibilities of rectifying some of these challenges within Bulawayo,” Ncube said.

In response, Bulawayo Town Clerk, Christopher Dube, said this was an idea, which in fact the local authority had embarked on.

“In fact, we advertised for community plumbers who could be ward based dealing with water and sewer challenges. Unfortunately, we only received one response,” he said.

“I then asked the engineer to make some changes to our (advertisement) specifications, because maybe they were on the higher side since we required someone with a vehicle. If you are a plumber carrying all that equipment, you have to drive from one place to the other.”

The town clerk said even if the plumbers did not have vehicles, they could “hire, give us bills then we pay.”

“We are certainly trying to do that, in fact we will be having community plumbers,” Dube noted.

City engineer, Sikhumbuzo Ncube, added that the council was undertaking concerted efforts to manage recurring sewer bursts.

“For instance, in Makokoba, we realise there is a lot of activity from the live industry. After some assessments, we realised the pipes are clogged. We had to dig up and the solution in some areas was putting new pipes, new manholes, new manhole lids but within a month some of the lids had already disappeared,” he said.

“It’s a concerted effort of council and users, let’s work together. Sometimes you find spoons, rocks and when we remove them, we call residents to come see. Soon after the same thing happens.”

Eng. Ncube concurred that besides its own council sewer teams, the local authority had contractors put in place since May this year.

“These are designated in different areas. We have had civil works down, laying new pipes raising manholes, sand traps, which is a chamber that collects sand. Although sand traps are put up, within a week they are already full. Ask yourself where that sand is coming from and these are some challenges we are facing,” he said.

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