Fairness Moyana in Hwange
THE Hwange Local Board (HLB) has embarked on a water reticulation system installation exercise in Empumalanga Phase 4 which is expected to end over 17 years of water problems for over 500 households in the suburb.
Installation of water reticulation in the area was stalled after beneficiaries besieged the unserviced stands and began to construct houses and a number of residents later resorted to illegal connections with the over 400 beneficiaries in 2018 petitioning the local authority over failure to provide essential services years after they bought their properties.
The residents were infuriated by the council demands for a top up to service the stands arguing that it was not their business to provide water, sewer and road infrastructure. Residents who spoke to Sunday News said the failure by the local authority to provide them with basic sanitation was exposing them to diseases as they were forced to buy water or fetch from unprotected sources.
Residents paid US$920 in 2009 for the stands before council demanded a top up of US$2 217 for sewer reticulation which was firmly rejected by residents prompting council to connect water and sewer to over 500 houses in 2018 following mounting pressure from residents but the project stalled. Responding to emailed questions HLB said it had started on the project pointing legacy issues for the delay.
“Hwange Local Board Council is currently embarking on a water reticulation system installation exercise in Empumalanga Phase 4, with the assistance of residents. Empumalanga Phase 4 is more of a dysfunctional settlement, as beneficiaries of the residential stands moved in and started constructing houses before the area could be fully-serviced.
“The delay in the installation of both the water and sewer reticulation systems is a legacy issue dating back to 2009, when the local authority’s previous administration engaged a contractor who somehow failed to service the stands in question. Irked by the delay in servicing, some of the beneficiaries moved in and started construction activities, with some already settling there,” said Mr Paulos Mabhureni, the acting town secretary.
He said efforts by council to install water reticulation system in 2020 stalled due to the Covid-19 national lockdown before it was further slowed down by the presence of a rock outcrop in the area and shortage of labour.
“The local authority has been relying on a depleted manual labour to excavate rocky areas due to lack of the requisite machinery. However, of late, some residents have devised rudimental methods of crushing the rock outcrop to enable the laying of pipes, while also assisting council in trenching. About 400 households and stands have been connected to water out of 548.”
Mr Mabhureni said efforts were underway to install a sewer reticulation system in the area with prospects of extending the project to the rehabilitation of the Empumalanga sewer plant that broke down 15 years ago.
“While efforts to connect water to all properties in Phase 4 are underway, we are also looking forward to installing a sewer reticulation system in the area. There will be a need for specialised equipment for the installation of a sewer line in the area, thus council might consider hiring a contractor to carry out the work. In view of the growing township, council is seized with ensuring expediting rehabilitation of Empumalanga sewerage plant, which became malfunctional about 15 years ago. We are also looking forward to replacing our sewer pipes in Old Empumalanga as these have become small. They have to be in tandem with the growth of the township to avoid persistent sewer burst.”
Council said its revenue collection remains constrained although there was a slight improvement in the second quarter of last year, adding that over the past three years revenue collection rate has been hovering just above 30 percent.
The non-payment of rates, the local authority said was hampering its efforts to offer seamless and efficient service delivery as well as its ability to embark or complete vital projects. Meanwhile, residents welcomed the development arguing that the unavailability of water was exposing them to risks of contracting diseases such as Cholera.
“It’s more than a decade without water in Empumalanga Phase 4 and the installation of the water reticulation system is a welcome development. The Phase 4 residents are very organised and pushed for the installation of water system. We hope other areas in Hwange will take a leaf from this,” said Greater Hwange Residents Trust coordinator, Mr Fidelis Chima.