By Cuthbert Mashoko

The recent isolated cases of cholera outbreak in Zimbabwe should serve as a wakeup call to residents of Rutenga and the Mwenezi Rural District Council (MRDC) which seems to have no lasting solution to the wanton refuse dumping in the sprouting urban settlement.

Illegal dumping of refuse is the order of the day in Rutenga suburbs, where hips of uncollected garbage are not only posing a threat to the local’s health but have turned out to be an eye sore.

This sets the southern urban settlement on a health ticking time bomb given that Mwenezi District is one of the cholera hot spots according to the Ministry of Health and child care (MoHCC).

More so, the proximity of Rutenga Growth Point to Beitbridge town which has already recorded positive cases sends shivers in the spinal cords of residents who choose to care.

The Ministry of Health and Child Care gave a warning alert on the outbreak of cholera, with the first case detected on the 12th of February in Chegutu town in Mashonaland West Province.

In Masvingo Province cases of cholera as of late had been recorded in Chivi, Chiredzi and Bikita districts.

Provision of safe water is a key cog as a preventative measure of cholera which is spread though drinking contaminated water and eating contaminated food stuffs.

As of 02 April 325 cases had been recorded throughout the country.

Water provision from the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (ZINWA) which sometimes see the residents going for a week with dry taps compromise efforts of fighting the life threatening scourge.

It is against this background that residents of Rutenga find themselves in a tricky situation which can be disastrous unless due attention is given.

Due to the acute water supply by ZINWA, residents in Rutenga are left to rely on borehole water from the two boreholes that serve Rutenga suburbs.

 It is unfortunate that the boreholes are too heavy to operate and are a burden to young children people with disabilities and women.

With the rain season upon us, rain water that would have accumulated in open sources becomes a major relief for the young children and women who cannot with stand the industrious task of operating the boreholes.

Furthermore, while the water supplies by Exodus and Company to the residents are highly appreciated, it is with great concern that some of the water that is delivered to the residents is not safe for consumption.

Even though the residents are alerted that the water is not safe for drinking, chances are high that the residents end up consuming it. It is in the context of these unfortunate developments that the spread of the waterborne bacterial cholera finds a fertile ground.

Failure by ZINWA to supply safe water to residents in Rutenga has also given birth to the use of the bush and open space for defecation. Human waste is an eyesore in the nearby bushes and pathways.

This is coupled with reckless disposal of used diapers and these short comings are pointers to a dire situation which calls for immediate solutions to save a population of about three thousand people from a hygienic catastrophe.

The need for constant safe supply of water is at the center of any battle against any hygienic ailment.

As such ZINWA needs to put its house in order and fulfill its mandate of supplying clean portable water to the residents.

There cannot be any valuable excuse from ZINWA resulting in residents of Rutenga going for a fortnight without running water, unless the public water body intends to proclaim that it has failed on its mandate of providing safe water to the residents.

In view of the above, ZINWA should have a feasible water rationing program that is made aware to the residents, for instance, supplying water in the early hours of the day ,may be up to ten o’clock.

This will give an opportunity to residents to harvest water for a day’s use. More so, in the event that ZINWA fails to pump water to households, it should be the responsibility of ZINWA to bring water to residents possibly by use of bowsers. This will enable residents to make use of the water ablution systems, thereby limiting the chances of residents to use the bush.

MRDC should come to the party by ensuring that user friendly boreholes are installed in the suburbs.

In this age solar powered systems are the most ideal. This will give the residents an alternative water supply in the event that ZINWA fails on its mandate. Furthermore, MRDC needs to embark on a robust clean-up campaign that will set Rutenga on a new chapter.

This should take on board all the stakeholders in Rutenga. It is high time that the Local Authority prosecutes all those caught dumping refuse illegally. Erection of billboards on the usual illegal dumping sites can be both educative and a restrictive measure.

Equally important is for the Environment Management Agency (EMA) to play a leading role by involving residents in Rutenga in Refuse Management programs.

Conclusively, Rutenga residents should smell the coffee and come to the realization that they are the authors of their own story.

 A clean environment is the responsibility of the residents therefore there is need for them to play a key role in ensuring that they keep their environment clean.

It is against this background that an effective Residents Association be established to play a watchdog role, lobby, raise awareness and advocate for better service delivery from duty bearers in Rutenga Growth Point.

Cuthbert Mashoko is a Development Practitioner and a Teacher who writes in his own capacity.