By Evidence Chipadza
A health time bomb is looming at a Farm produce market in Gweru Mtapa suburb with residents expressing fear of outbreak of diseases. This comes after Kudzanai market closed for renovations, forcing vendors to create a new vending site at Mtapa which lacks proper ablution facilities.
Kudzanai and Kombayi markets closed in March 2020 following a government directive to restore sanity in the city by building modern market stalls and proper ablution facilities. Government directed local authorities to take advantage of the lockdown to restore order in their cities.
Vendors at Mtapa market use 2 mobile toilets that are hired every week at a cost of 180 USD from a local businesswoman, thus losing money as Gweru City Council (GCC) is not providing required ablution facilities to assist vendors.
The July 2015 Audit Report-by Local government internal auditors dated 27 July 2015, shows that corruption is at play as public finances are being diverted for personal benefits , as Councillors misappropriated US313 419 for personal vehicles .
Fears abound that history might repeat itself as Gweru was once hit by a Typhoid outbreak in 2018. Furthermore, the country is experiencing a third wave of the Covid 19 pandemic and frequent washing hands under running water is one of the requirements in averting spread of the disease. However, for Mtapa vendors it is business as usual putting their health and that of their customers at risk.
Although a toilet is under construction, scores of vendors are already operating, selling vegetables and food stuffs. They require water to wash fruits and vegetables. Water to cook in their canteens as well as water to drink.
Midlands Vendors Association (MVA) Secretary Angeline Zivanai said city council is losing a lot of money by their failure to collect revenue from the market.
“They cannot collect anything because we are just like people selling in the forest. We demand proper toilets and water sources so that they can start collecting their revenue,” said Zivanai.
Section 77 of the constitution states that every citizen has a right to a clean and healthy environment, therefore the local authority is mandated to adequately provide these services to its citizens.
A lady operating at Mtapa market, Phillipa Mufambi, said it is worrisome especially for women who need to maintain cleanliness during her menstruation period.
“There is no privacy, and one needs a lot of water during this time. The toilets are not disability friendly, neither are they gender sensitive. Children opt to go to the thick grass near the railway line than use the mobile toilets,” said Mufambi.
There is no tap water and women have to part with extra money so that they hire people to fetch water for them to keep everything clean.
Minister of National Housing and Social Amenities Daniel Garwe visited the site on the 23rd of June and was shocked by the state of the market and immediately issued a 2-week ultimatum to GCC to complete the construction of vending stalls and ablution blocks at Mtapa market.
“I am actually shocked with the current status, if the city fails to deliver in 2 weeks, then we will move in as a government through my ministry and provide necessary works,” said Garwe.
Responding to the ultimatum issued to GCC by Minister Garwe, Public Relations Officer Vimbai Chingwaramuse said as a local authority they are working to ensure that standard stalls are built at the site.
” We engaged the contractor so that instant action is taken since this has become a health hazard and it is our hope that we move very fast,” said Chingwaramuse.
In another development GCC in collaboration with Gweru Residents Forum (GRF) managed to launch a G City online application that is targeted at allowing residents to access information from the local authority in real time.
Gweru Mayor Josiah Makombe, who launched the app said the app came at the right time since the country is experiencing Covid -19.
“Many people are working from home because of this pandemic, as council it was our desire to go digital and with this app you are free to do business in the comfort of your own homes,” said Makombe.