Harare health time bomb…as vendors store stocks in public toilets

Source: Harare health time bomb…as vendors store stocks in public toilets –Newsday Zimbabwe

Harare City Council Copacabana vending area where some vendors pay to hide their remaining products inside the toilets.

HARARE City Council (HCC) caretakers are cashing in on vendors whom they allow to leave their wares including vegetables, bottled water and soft drinks for overnight safekeeping in public toilets, NewsDay Weekender established.

Investigations revealed an elaborate scheme where caretakers at public toilets are demanding bribes from vendors who operate near the area.

The caretakers allow vendors to store their leftover stock overnight in exchange for a fee of up to US$5, investigations revealed.

This not only raises hygiene concerns, but also suggests a blatant disregard for council regulations.

Caretakers who spoke to NewsDay Weekender on condition of anonymity said they cooperate with vendors on a win-win situation.

“We usually collect up to US$5 per night depending on the stock and sometimes they give us tomatoes or vegetables equivalent to US$2,” a council caretaker said.

“We use that money for transport to and from work because our salary is too little to take us for a month. Besides transport, we can also buy bread going home. Sometimes a vendor can opt to give you vegetables, tomatoes or fruits as a token of appreciation.

“Usually we put their stuff inside empty boxes but it’s not every day.”

The council workers, however, said they deal with vendors that they know.

“It’s not easy to work as a caretaker at the council toilets. One has to be clever to the extent of making their own receipt books and collecting those few cents to take home,” he said.

“However, now that there are mobile toilets situated near council toilets, it’s difficult to make money because people prefer those mobile toilets.”

Council spokesperson Stanley Gama said they do not have specific criteria in selecting caretakers and money generated from paid toilets differ with days.

Gama said individuals setting up mobile toilets make arrangements with the city and they pay for use of council land like any other business.

“They can apply to the city department of works for a licence to operate. They are usually located in areas with no free public toilets and they complement the City’s toilet facilities. The population in Harare has far outgrown the toilet facilities we have,” he added.

City of Harare’s director of health services, Prosper Chonzi, said the municipality was aware of unhealthy conducts by caretakers and the vendors at the city council toilets.

“It’s totally unacceptable, unhealthy and this should be stopped,” he said.

“Those people who are conniving with the vendors should really be brought to book and brought to account because they are a danger to the health of the public at large.”

Chonzi said turning toilets into warehouses for vegetables and other foods was a health time bomb.

“If cholera is really a disease of poor hygiene, poor sanitation, so with such an environment, it will be very difficult to deal effectively with cholera, because it’s spread by the key drivers of cholera, a poor water supply, poor hygiene and poor sanitation,” he said.

“So we will not be able to stay free for as long as the environment is the way it is right now.

“If you cannot provide toilets with running water, you must then provide more portable toilets, which can then be ferried to a place they can be sanitised,”

Several vendors who spoke to NewsDay Weekender said the majority of informal traders had no capacity to carry their stock to and from home.

 “We have to pay caretakers to leave our remaining wares at the council premises because we cannot carry them home everyday; we sell fragile staff,” a vendor, Sharon Muzuri, revealed.

But veteran talk show host Rebbeca Chisamba, however, said this raised serious health concerns.

“Toilets are meant to be sanitary spaces, and storing food and other goods near them poses a significant health risk,” she said.

Vendors Initiative for Social and Economic Transformation director Samuel Wadzai said HCC should establish designated vending zones which are not prone to diseases like cholera. Zimbabwe Mobile Sanitation Association (ZMSA) president Boston Muteya said the city council delayed with memoranda of understanding meant to improve their operating conditions.

Since 2017, ZMSA has been in and out of council offices trying to lobby for laws that can improve the standards of council toilets across the country.

According to Muteya, the council felt they want to snatch business from local authorities.

“We are coming to upgrade the standards of the country’s sanitation but the biggest problem is that the city council is now acting like we are taking their money,” Muteya said.

“Our job is to upgrade the standard which is why the council is making more efforts to clean their toilets now. We are fighting this cholera outbreak in complementing the job that Zimbabwe is doing already.”

According to the council, nearly 100 000 vendors are registered in Harare.

The post Harare health time bomb…as vendors store stocks in public toilets appeared first on Zimbabwe Situation.

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