The core business of urban local authorities is to provide decent accommodation, sewer and water reticulation, refuse removal, health services, recreational facilities, schools and other such essential services to residents.
Residents therefore look up to councils for accommodation and as such councils are expected to either provide rented accommodation or assist residents to build their own houses. Councils have over the years partnered with housing developers whereby councils provide serviced land to developers to build houses for residents and in some cases councils provide even virgin land to developers who then service the land and build houses.
Many urban local authorities are battling to clear housing backlogs and the situation has been worsened by economic challenges which has seen many towns and cities scaling down on housing development during the past few years.
We want to commend councils for striving to provide decent accommodation to their residents but one area which seems to have been neglected is upgrading old houses or flats which have become a health hazard. Many of them are in fact no longer fit for human habitation. What quickly comes to mind are old flats such as Burombo in Bulawayo’s Nguboyenja suburb.
The flats were built during the colonial era and meant to accommodate men working for the different industries and not families as is the case now. Many families are now accommodated at this block of flats hence the overcrowding. The communal toilets and bathrooms were meant for the limited number of men who used to stay at the flats but are now being stretched by the increased population.
It is therefore not a surprise that many of the toilets are now blocked. The families are now sharing the few toilets still functional and the situation is therefore a looming time bomb that needs to be addressed urgently by the Bulawayo City Council.
What is encouraging is that the city fathers are saying they are aware of the health hazard at this block of flats and are working on addressing the problem.
We want to implore the city council to act fast before the city witnesses an outbreak of diseases given the squalid conditions residents are living under.
Human excreta at times flow from the toilets into the rooms and this cannot be allowed to continue. All resources should be mobilised to upgrade these and many other similar old flats so that residents have decent accommodation. The number of families residing in these flats should be regulated to avoid overcrowding as is the case now.
Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Minister Cde July Moyo recently said Government would soon embark on a programme to upgrade such old flats and houses and we are saying work should start as soon as possible. We want at this juncture to call upon local authorities to work on the old suburbs whose sanitation facilities leave a lot to be desired.
Communal toilets and bathrooms should be phased out in all towns and cities as they do not promote good hygiene.
We want to once again call upon the Bulawayo City Council to act now to avert a disaster at Burombo flats.