By Admire Mutize- Chitownews citizen reporter.
The town of Chitungwiza, Zimbabwe’s third largest and fastest growing urban centre and home to over a million residents is operating without public toilets, inconveniencing residents and visitors who need to answer the call of nature while away from their homes. A tour of the sprawling town conducted by Chitownews reporters last week revealed that out of the 25 council-owned public toilets located at major shopping centres across the town, 13 are dilapidated and falling into pieces while 10 appeared structurally sound but were locked and out of operation with only two being open for public use.
Public toilets at the following shopping centres are dilapidated and have become health hazards choking with rubbish and faeces with roofs falling inside and walls falling apart. Huruyadzo shopping centre in St. Marys, Gumbakumba road, Zengeza 1 shops, Zengeza 5 Corner shops,Unit J, Unit K, Unit D shops, Unit H, Unit P, Unit C, Unit M and Unit O.
Public toilets found to be still structurally sound but closed and clearly out of operation are Toilets at Zengeza 3 shops, Zengeza 2, Zengeza 4, Unit L, New Zengeza 4 shops, Unit A, Unit B, Unit E, Unit F and unit G shops.
The two public toilets operating in Chitungwiza can be found at Makoni Shopping Centre and Chitungwiza Town centre. Interestingly both have remained operational due to the management efforts of private players with Old Mutual taking responsibility of the public toilet at its Town Centre complex.
Chitownews rated it the cleanest and most welcoming in Chitungwiza.
The other open and operational public toilet in Chitungwiza can be found at Makoni shopping centre where an enterprising young man has taken over operations, cleaning and maintaining the toilet and charging commuters an access fee ranging from twenty cents to fifty cents.
The lack of access to public sanitation facilities in a high-density area poses health risks as hard-pressed people resort to open defecation and public urination which creates unhygienic conditions which are conducive to the spread of sanitation related diseases such as cholera and typhoid. The situation has raised the concern of public health experts and representatives of residents who called on the local authority to ensure that public toilets are operational and clean to avoid unnecessary loss of life.
A public health expert working with the Ministry of health and resident in Chitungwiza who chose to remain anonymous warned residents that that Chitungwiza could pay a heavy price when the inevitable epidemic strikes;
“Public toilets are not a luxury which Chitungwiza residents can forego, they are a necessity which needs to be prioritised to ensure environmental, social and personal hygiene. The increasing incidence of people defecating in the open is a cause of concern”. He said
Mr. Joseph Taderera of the Chitungwiza Residents and Ratepayers Association (CHIRRA) castigated the local Municipality for closing public toilets at a time when residentss are struggling to access clean water.
‘The closure of public toilets is a serious issue that exposes the deterioration of service delivery in the town. We as CHIRRA have flagged this issue countless times during meetings with Councillors and the Town Clerk but they have failed to justify why council is failing to keep then operational ’, he said.
When asked to comment on the state of public toilets, the municipal public relations officer Mr. Mandirahwe he is ‘currently not on duty’.