Rumbidzai Mbewe, Correspondent
JOSPHAT Munsaka is a father of two from Mashala Village, 17km from Hwange Town along the Zambezi-Deka Road.
All his life he has depended on selling fish and baskets from the reeds he gets from the Deka River. Since 2000, when more mining companies were given the greenlight to mine in Hwange, his life has changed for the worse.
His source of income was disrupted by the pollution of water, killing not only the fish but the reeds that he used to make baskets for sale.
Not only has Munsaka lost his source of income, his health was also affected by drinking contaminated water, his livestock and that of other villagers have been dying from drinking the unsafe water too. Zimbabwe Christian Alliance through its Communities for Environmental Action project has, however, spearheaded an engagement meeting with the community of Mashala which was attended by the District Development Co-ordinator Mr Simon Muleya and Hwange Rural District Council, Chief Executive Officer, Mr Philani Ncube.
It was during the meeting that the pollution of Deka River was laid bare. An elderly woman, Mrs Georgina Nyathi said the community of Hwange has been benefiting from the Deka River. She said the river that afforded them the chance to take care of their families and send children to school was causing death and grief.
“Our cattle are dying because of drinking polluted water and the veterinary is in Mwemba. It is very far for me to go there with my dead cow or goat for them to find out what was the cause of the death.
I found one of my goats dead with a swollen stomach, we cut it open, and it oozed out green water. We do not have the knowledge that once our cattle die mysteriously, we have to take it to the veterinary for check-up and still even if we knew, we do not have the money to pay for the expenses that are incurred,” she said.
Gogo Nyathi also raised the issue of shortage of boreholes or clean and safe water points for them and their cattle to drink. She said they now rely on water that they fetch from Zesa power pipe breathers which was not treated and one functioning borehole which services the whole community.
“We at Shashashunda do not have access to clean water, there are three boreholes and out of the three only one is functional. We are struggling to get water and we are drinking water from the Zesa pipe breathers. The water is raw, and we use it for everything that people use water for,” she said.
Besides cattle and fish dying in the river, Mr Moreblessing Shoko, said school children were in great danger of drinking the contaminated water. He said children on their way to their homes after school pass by the river drinking water as the school also does not have enough water for them to drink.
“Our children are not safe as they also drink water from the Deka River on their way from school. I wonder what is so difficult for this problem to be solved, hence we are saying that we are not being treated as human beings. Our rights to health and clean water are violated and no one seems to care about it,” said Mr Shoko.
Mr Smart Ndlovu from Mashala said; “There were mining companies that promised to supply water, Hwange Colliery had promised to drill a borehole for Shashashunda, Zesa for Mashala (Down), while another company was to drill for Mashala (Top) and that was in 2017.
Till today we have not seen any development, but these companies are still functioning without meeting their promises to the community,” he said.
In response, Mr Muleya said he was not aware of the promises that were made by other companies but what he was sure of was the agreement with the Hwange Colliery Company.
“I am not aware of these other agreements but what I am aware of is the Hwange Colliery promise. I checked with them recently and they have recently commissioned boreholes in Kasasa and Mwemba. We haven’t seen anything from ZPC,” he said.
The RDC CEO Mr Ncube told the meeting that the Government was working towards coming up with a solution to the Deka River pollution. He said fears among people were very valid and there was a need for the mining companies and the community to further engage.