Zimbabwe becomes a death camp, as more people succumb to cholera

By Violet Gonda
12 November 2008

We are increasingly receiving disturbing reports from across the country that more and more people are succumbing to cholera, as every aspect of Zimbabwean society collapses. Even the state controlled Herald newspaper reports seeing two trucks ferrying dead bodies from Budiriro, to an infectious disease mortuary on Tuesday.

A reports from the north east border town of Nyamapanda says that bodies are being buried in very shallow (1 meter) graves, in council land adjacent to the mortuary in the town.

An eye witness who had just travelled from Nyamapanda said: “Flea market operators who go and set up stalls from Harare are sharing accommodation with unburied corpses.” A commentator added that it seems as if ‘Robert Mugabe is quite content to turn the country into a giant death camp.’

The former chairperson of the Combined Harare Residents Association (CHRA) Mike Davies, speaking in his private capacity, said people would not be dying from cholera if there were adequate resources, but the continuing deaths are a symptom of the failure of the regime to address the basic social needs of the citizens.

Prevention of the disease is relatively easy with adequate water supplies and proper sanitation practices, but Zimbabwe has now become a breeding ground for this infectious disease. There is no clean water in most parts of the country, resulting in many desperate people scrounging for water from unprotected wells and streams, in spite of the cholera outbreak.

With the collapse of the health industry and most hospitals now being shut, many people are just dying at home, making it very difficult to come up with statistics. The government has also been downplaying the extent of the crisis. Furthermore the fact that there is still no government in place in Zimbabwe makes the situation even more abnormal.

On Wednesday the Herald newspaper could not hide the extent of the crisis. The paper wrote: “The Harare City Council yesterday remained mum as cholera continued to take its toll. Yesterday afternoon The Herald witnessed two trucks ferrying bodies of cholera victims from Budiriro Polyclinic to Beatrice Road Infectious Diseases Hospital mortuary.”

A number of areas in the capital have been without water for several weeks and yet residents are still being forced to pay their rates. Some areas like Mabvuku and Tafara have gone for half a year without water.

Meanwhile a CHRA statement accuses the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (ZINWA) of gross incompetence, which has resulted in the cholera scourge that has claimed lives in Budiriro, Glenview, Glen Norah Dzivarasekwa and Chitungwiza.

“In the traditional fashion of the arm-twisting of state institutions for partisan and self gratification, the ZANU PF Government defied all reason and went ahead with the ZINWA takeover of water and sewer management from the local authorities in 2006. The decision has resulted in untold water inadequacies and subsequent disease outbreaks and deaths from cholera and other related diseases, in the light of the collapsed health sector,” said the statement.

However ZINWA blames the crisis on a lack of spare parts and foreign currency to buy chemicals needed to purify the water.

Davies says that until there is a legitimate government in the country, elected by the people, there will be no change in the situation. He also noted the failure of leadership in the opposition, to galvanise the anger from people who have now been reduced to an animal existence.

Davies said: “This is an indictment of civil society. I think that we haven’t constructed possibilities that people can believe in, that we can deliver a change to the situation.”

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