Several vendors who are operating at Mtapa Market in Gweru’s central business district are grappling with fear as they are not sure if Gweru City Council (GCC) is prepared to effectively combat cholera which has hit parts of the country.
Cholera is an acute diarrhoeal infection caused by ingesting contaminated food or water.
Mtapa Market, one of the city’s largest vending markets, accommodates about 2 000 vendors.
It has been operating without ablution facilities and running water for almost three years, with the council continuously assuring the vendors that toilet facilities will be built.
In the past, vendors implemented a temporary plan of hiring mobile toilets, paying a dollar a day, but this plan later collapsed and the vendors resorted to using a nearby cemetery to relieve themselves.
The organising secretary of the vendors’ association, Angeline Zibanayi, said GCC is incompetent.
“Every day we see headlines of cholera outbreaks and our council is not doing anything. We need running water and toilets. Since 2020, GCC has been collecting rent from us, but they are not taking any action,” said Zibanayi.
A member of the Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development (Zimcodd), Gracia Mashingaidze, said the absence of toilets and water has worsened inequalities in local communities and burdens women.
“The issue of toilets is now overdue. In 2022 we had a hashtag #HowFarMutapaMarket? and there was no action at all. The informal sector seems to be neglected, yet it’s one of the city’s cash cows. There is a need for central government and GCC to work towards the preparedness of disaster management,” said Mashingaidze.
In 2022, Gweru residents localised the #HowFar? campaign that was launched by Zimcodd aimed at tracking progress on recent promises made by local authorities.
Section 73 of the Zimbabwean constitution states that every person has the right to an environment that is not harmful to their health and wellbeing. The right to clean, safe and potable water is also stipulated under section 77.
In an interview, the city council’s director of health, Dr Samson Sekenhamo, confirmed that they have begun rolling out awareness campaigns in preparation for potential outbreaks.
“I am glad that as the City of Gweru we have not received any cases of cholera outbreaks at Mtapa Market. We are making sure that refuse is collected regularly, isolation centres will be stationed at different places and, lastly, we urge the public to do proper water storage techniques and also boil water,” said Sekenhamo