Harare chokes in pilling rubbish

…as Geogenix mess stinks up to high heavens

Mary Mundeya

It is an early Wednesday morning and Winnet Mutsvedu, a resident of Mbare flats is cleaning the 3mx3m apartment she shares with her husband and five children.

She is suddenly alarmed by a group of kids knocking simultaneously on her door.

“Mhamha vhurai door, mwana achekwa gumbo nebhodhoro,” one of them shouts.

She rushes downstairs to find her third born Rutendo lying in agony besides the 4m-high garbage dump that for the past year has become a favorite playing spot for children.

It is not only in Mbare where such huge garbage dumps are found. The central business district as well as other residential suburbs have in recent weeks witnessed rapid mushrooming of garbage dumps due to none refuse collection by the city authorities.

The non-collection of refuse has been worsened by the confusion surrounding the concession agreement between City of Harare and Dutch-registered Geogenix BV to design, build and operate a power plant at the Pomona dumpsite.

The company is owned by Mirel Mërtiri a controversial Albanian businessman who is accused of corruption in his own country.

The agreement, which was approved by cabinet in February this year, at the behest of Local Government Minister July Moyo, has seen council’s refuse trucks being turned away due the authority’s failure to pay the required $40 per every tone of garbage dumped at the site.

“Living in such unhealthy conditions has become unbearable for us as Mbare flats residents. Every aspect of our lives in engraved in dirt that space for our kids to play has been taken away by the rubbish dumps that are everywhere here.

“One of my children had her foot cut by a bottle when she was playing with her friends this morning at one of the countless dump sites we have here and not so long ago, my neighbor’s 6 year old fell in a raw sewage pond situated behind this flat,” Winnet says.

Residents from other Harare residentials suburbs such as Warren Park and Greendale say council’s failure to collect refuse was resulting in the emergence of numerous undesignated garbage dumping sites.

“Everyone has now resorted to emptying their bins at any secluded place they can find because for the past months, the garbage trucks haven’t been coming,” said Masimba Tinarwo, a Warren Park D resident.

“We cannot keep our bins once they are full, hence we are opting to empty them elsewhere, even if it means by the roadside. If things are to continue like this a major cholera outbreak is inevitable,” said Mirriam Chirunga of Greendale.

Vendors who sell their wares at different bus terminuses including Market Square and Coppa Cabana terminus find themselves having to cope with the putrid stench produced by huge garbage dumps.

Combined Harare Residents Trust spokesperson, Reuben Akili said non-collection of refuse emanated from poor management of financial resources and lack of prioritization of service delivery in council expenditure.

“We still hold our position that the 15 refuse trucks purchased by the city in 2017 must be delivered to compliment the newly-acquired fleet of tipper trucks. The city spends so much on soccer and trips than refuse collection or service provision which is not proper and reasonable,” Akili said.

In an interview, Mayor Jacob Mafume acknowledged the city’s failure to collect refuse but promised to work hard to for a turnaround.

“We have started a dump clearing exercise through which we hope to have cleared all the garbage in Harare in the next 30 days. Indeed the challenge has been there and we are working on rectifying it. Service delivery should be automatic and there is no excuse,’’ Mafume said.

Asked where council was currently taking the garbage since their trucks were turned away from the Pomona dumpsite, Mafume said council continued to use the facility which he claimed still belonged to the municipality.

“The Pomona dumpsite belongs to the Harare City Council. There is no one, from anywhere who can just wake up and say they have taken over. I was surprised when I saw a certain council official appearing on TV saying they handed over the site to a particular company. Please note that there is no council employee with the power to do that.

“We are not fools that we can lease land that is ours so that a company can make us pay for delivering litter to them as well as make us pay them if we failed to deliver any litter to them. There is no landlord who pays rent on his own property and we will soon have a full council meeting to deliberate on the matter and map the way forward,” he said.