By Chitownews Citizen reporter Admire Mutize.
Eight people reportedly drowned while trying to cross the flooded Nyatsime River at various crossing points since Friday last week. Three of the victims were swept away at the ramshackle Nyatsime Bridge behind Chitungwiza Industrial area on Friday and two more met the same fate at the same death trap on Saturday, sparking panic, anger and fear in the rapidly growing Nyatsime Informal settlement established across the river from Chitungwiza.
As residents and bystanders scrambled along the riverside on Saturday trying to locate the bodies of the five victims- they were shocked to see the body of woman with a baby strapped on her back floating away in the river- confirming that two more victims had met the same fate upstream.
The police sub aqua unit responded on Sunday but failed to locate victim’s bodies amid rising waters and conflicting claims about the number of fatalities from eye-witness present. Chitownews reporters visited the death-trap bridge on Monday morning just as the sub-aqua unit returned for a second search.
The police divers did not take too long to locate the first victim whose body was trapped in the reeds a few metres from the bridge. Touts who man the bridge helping stranded people to cross for a fee helped police divers to retrieve the body.
The heartrending sight of lifeless body brought grief to the victims’s families and friends who wailed uncontrollably and cursed government and the Nyatsime housing committee who squandered contributions for the construction of the bridge for the needless loss of life. Eyewitness present confirmed that the deceased was a well known friendly young man nicknamed ‘Nokia” who worked as a clothing and second hand cellphone dealer. He was the first to be swept away by the raging currents on Friday evening.
More shocking news was relayed to Sub aqua police unit by Nyatsime residents who claimed that an apparently drunk man fell into an uncovered well and drowned near Bwanya Shopping centre at the heart of the sprawling informal settlement on Sunday evening. This victim was retrieved from the well on Monday evening by the same sub aqua unit that retrieved ‘Nokia’ from Nyatsime river.
The Sub aqua unit continued their search for the other bodies leaving the mourners and friends to attend the body of the deceased. On Tuesday morning- one more body was discovered floating in the river at a area downstream from the bridge called ‘Matanda’ and Chitownews could not ascertain whether police retrieved it by the time of publication.
The multiple and perennial drowning in Nyatsime are clearly man made crisis. In 2012- Residents of Nyatsime formed a committee which illegally allocated them land without developments like roads sewers and water reticulation. More critically- Nyatsime location was built with no bridge linking it to Chitungwiza where residents commute daily to access social services like clinics, schools, shops and job opportunities which places them at risk when the river is flooded.
One Resident speaking on condition of anonymity said ‘We contributed more than US$75 000.00 towards construction of bridge but money was embezzled by a committee led by ‘Giant, Matanda and recently Colonel Masimbi’. We were then asked to pay a further US$25 and we refused. Government must force council to build that bridge”.
Chitownews contacted the Chitungwiza Public Relations officer Mr Lovemore Meya seeking clarification whether Nyatsime was under the jurisdiction of Chitungwiza which would make Chitungwiza Municipality the responsible authority.
“Nyatsime is an issue which is not under our purview considering that there is a (court) interdict, Chitungwiza Town Council did not allocate land to Nyatsime residents so legally we are not responsible for constructing that bridge or answerable to their welfare. The issue of Nyatsime bridge is being re