Haunted by history

KADOMA - A blocked sewer system producing a foul-smell in Old Ingezi’s high density suburb tells the story of imprisoned residents.

It is in this suburb where World War Two prisoners of the war from Italy and Poland were jailed.
After the war years, this suburb sprung from the ashes of the prison complex which was turned into living quarters for residents. Living without necessary ablution facilities and reliable water, residents have often wondered whether prisoners who stayed here before them were not better off.

Residents go about their day-to-day chores without any sign of a twinge, having come to terms with their captivity to filthy surroundings.

Situated about three kilometres from Kadoma’s central business centre, the suburb is identified with a line of locked, depilated toilets.

During the war years, the Rhodesian government accommodated the prisoners in Mashonaland West’s “Golden City” called Gatooma, or Kadoma as it is known today.

It is much more like prison today.

“Water is not reliable and conditions are disastrous. Toilets are no longer functional. Our children bath in overflowing sewer during the rainy season,” says 35-year-old resident Rhoda Phiri.

She says she fears the return of the cholera outbreak that ravaged Zimbabwe in 2008 and 2009.

Over 4 000 people died countrywide during the cholera outbreak.

In Kadoma alone, 489 deaths were recorded.

Raphael Banda, an elderly 75-year-old resident who moved here in 1958 following the deaths of Polish prisoners of war says the suburb was called “kuMatariana” for Italians or “Polishi’’ for the Polish prisoners.

Their remains were repatriated but their stay left a mark of destitution and neglect that is haunting Kadoma up to today.

“We were allocated single quarters of prisoners of war lodgings but the toilets were never modified to suit new tenants. They are no longer sustainable for the ever-growing population as pipes are old. We are new captives of dirty here,” narrates Banda.

Local councillor Masarakufa Sibanda blames lack of commitment from some council senior officials.

“Senior workers are not doing enough and are not accountable. Some policy makers are working in cahoots with workers over poor water and sewerage system’’, he said.

“Our engineering department is the worst and is failing residents. They claim there is no manpower but many of them are just lazy,” he charged.

Kadoma mayor Peter Matambo disagreed with Sibanda, saying financial constraints had affected planning.

“We are failing to get enough revenue from residents. Our plans for new toilets in Ingezi are hampered by lack of funds. We have a dedicated power line to ensure undisputed water supplies there,” said Matambo.
He blamed the closure of several companies, including textile firm David Whitehead, which he said affected negatively on the council revenue.

“David Whitehead employed at least 5 000 workers and its closure has had an effect on our budget. Health, food security as well as water and sanitation are highly compromised,” added Matambo.

Matambo says his pipeline dream for new toilets in Ingezi remains hostage of funding. For residents, it remains prison hell. - Criswell Chitsa

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