Zimbabwe government’s empty promises condemn residents to grim reality of squalor, risk of diseases |

By Darlington Gatsi / Tapiwa Svondo 

AN overpowering stench permeates the air around Matererini flats in the high-density suburb of Mbare in Zimbabwe’s capital city of Harare.

A nauseating mix of decaying organic matter and raw sewage flows in the area with inhabitants hopping, skipping and jumping as they navigate the filthy streets and walkways.

This has become part of the daily lives of residents in the area.

Rhoda Dongo, a resident of Mbare’s Matererini flats Block C20, painted a grim picture of her daily toil amid a total collapse of social services.

“The way we are living here at Matererini flats its painful. The toilets don’t flush. When you attempt to flush, the chambers pump out all that you would have flushed. The mess then floods the passages and rooms close to the dilapidated toilets.

“The main pipes all burst up, and children actually walk on the raw sewage. Even where we stand, there is flowing sewage.

“This is our everyday life. We have on several occasions, approached the council workmen, but all they say is we are not getting paid. So, we end up providing plumbing services for ourselves just to be able to live under conditions you witnessed.

“With the perennial challenges which we face, the council still sends bills for water and sewer services. All inhabitants of the flats contribute towards the bills sent once-off every month, said Dongo.

Families residing in Matererini flats are facing a total collapse of social amenities never witnessed in independent Zimbabwe, whose government claims to be pursuing urban renewal and massive infrastructural developments.

The dilapidated buildings that were constructed during the colonial era have poor sanitation, making life extremely difficult for the residents, particularly the aged, people living with disabilities, pregnant and lactating mothers.

Blocked toilets are a common problem, with only one functioning toilet serving an entire block, which can house over 1 000 inhabitants.

This single toilet often has water, but it is far from sufficient for the needs of the many families living there.

The lack of water in most of the toilets exacerbates the situation, causing significant distress among dwellers.

More than 20 people share the single functioning toilet which they take turns to use with some being forced to bath in their cubicles using buckets.

“One toilet can serve up to 20 to 25 people. The morning rush hour is particularly stressful as our husbands prepare to go to work while kids get ready for school,” said Dongo.

The once-functional toilet sinks have been reduced to makeshift dwellings, where families of four or more now reside in cramped and squalid conditions.

The crowded settings and poor hygiene contribute to an unhealthy environment, which is sure fertile breeding ground for diseases such as cholera, typhoid and dysentery.

The shameful living conditions are not only limited to Matererini flats but extend to all residential areas in the proximity.

Open defecation is widespread around the suburb where children play happily oblivious of the grave dangers, they face thereby raising fears of a ticking health bomb.

Raw sewage has become a common sight at the flats owing to antiquated reticulation system that is failing to cope with the ballooning population.

A female inhabitant, who identified herself as Mrs Magonyo, uses buckets and shovels to rid the blocked toilets of human excreta. She cleans the mess in a bid to maintain some semblance of hygiene.

“We clean this mess on our own. Just that you came after we cleaned up, the raw faeces, otherwise you wouldn’t be standing in here the way you are doing. The smell that we experience here is unbearable.

“The city council cleaners just come and sign the register then leave because they can’t stand the urine and faeces all over. They claim that they are not getting paid their salaries therefore have no reason to confront such working conditions,” said Magonyo.

Mbare is a hotspot of diseases such as cholera, typhoid and dysentery which have been exacerbated by the poor sanitary conditions.

Failed promises 

The crumbling buildings and filth stand as a stark reminder of the neglect and abandonment this community faces by President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration, which has been spewing daily rhetoric of implementing policies and programmes to improve social services in urban and rural settlements.

Last year government declared a state of emergency in Mbare paving way for disbursements of funds to improve sanitation in the high-density area.

However, the dire straits and squalid conditions in Mbare flats persist raising questions about the political will to address the challenges.

Combined Harare Residents Association (CHRA) is threatening legal action to force city fathers to resolve the dire sanitation situation in the populous suburb.

“The situation in Matererini is inhumane. This cannot be allowed to continue,” CHRA Director, Reuben Akili told

“Despite our 2023 petition to the mayor of Harare and the council regarding this matter, the issue has not received the attention it deserves and remains unresolved.

“We urgently request the mayor of Harare and the minister of health to physically visit the flats to fully understand the extent and implications of the poor sanitary conditions in Mbare, Matapi, Shawasha, and Matererini Flats.

“It is disheartening that residents of these flats have been marginalised and treated as second-class citizens for decades, and this is completely unacceptable.”

Harare Mayor, Councillor Jacob Mafume said a team has been been dispatched to look into the issues that are plaguing residents of Mbare flats.

“I have instructed people to address the issue before they become a health hazard. In the next few days, we will get a clear picture,” said Mafume.

Matererini flats residents are living in the hope that the decades-long challenges will be resolved as of yesterday.

“Having lived in this area for many years, we do not know hygiene. We plead with the authorities to solve these problems for the benefit of us and our children,” said Dongo.

Written by admin