By Tichaona Sibanda
SW Radio Africa
9 July 2014
There is a looming health crisis in Chitungwiza as the town has been engulfed by waste and filth following a strike by council workers.
With a population of 1.5 million residents are having to live with the stench that has overtaken the town. Our correspondent Simon Muchemwa visited the town Wednesday and spoke to residents who expressed fear of an outbreak of diseases in their communities as a result of the situation.
‘Every area that I visited has a street or a house that has raw sewage flowing, or bins over flowing with refuse, diffusing an unbearable stench,’ he said.
Talks aimed at ending the crippling strike fell apart on Tuesday after council management insisted they had no money to pay the workers. Ephraim Katsina, the chairman of the workers representative council, told SW Radio Africa that talks collapsed after management made it clear they were not going to negotiate with workers.
‘We were at the labour offices in Harare yesterday (Tuesday) and management told us they just wanted to fire workers for going on strike. While we wanted to strike a balance with management they told us they had no money. In their own words, they said they don’t cough out money,’ Katsina said.
The Mayor of Chitungwiza, Phillip Mutoti, said they sympathize with the workers’ plight but they were not in a position to find the money anywhere to pay them.
‘Unless government declares the situation as an emergency, to allow donor agencies to come in and help, as council we’ve tried all we can without progress,’ he said. The Mayor said residents of the town owe his council $27 million from unpaid rates, while they owed workers $10 million in salaries.
‘The crisis in Chitungwiza was triggered by a directive last year by the Local Government minister Ignatius Chombo, compelling all local authorities to write-off residents’ debts. Since then few residents have been paying their rates,’ Mutoti said.
The situation in the town is now so bad the Zimbabwe National Army has been roped in to help manage critical departments as the strike entered its fourth day.
Mutoti explained that town Clerk George Makunde held a meeting with the army, asking them to man the clinics, collect refuse and maintain the sewage works.