MUTARE – Activities of illegal gold panners upstream Pungwe River recently caused a total shutdown of water pumping to Mutare city after council suspected that raw water was possibly contaminated by toxic chemicals, it has emerged.
The details came out during a public dialogue meeting between Sakubva residents and their councillors at Beit Hall on Friday, December 13, 2019.
Participants at the dialogue had sought answers from wards 4 and 5 councillors Edson Kalulu and Simon Mapuvire respectively, as to what had caused the serious disruption which saw their areas going for up to a week without tap water.
The residents complained that council lacked tact in its communication with them, and that the services they received was not commensurate with the rates they paid.
Other participants argued that it was inexcusable for council to let high density residential suburbs like Sakubva to spend a week without running water given their vulnerability to contagious diseases like cholera and typhoid.
In response, Mapuvire blamed the shutdown on illegal gold panners operating upstream the river which is Mutare’s source of raw water.
“There are illegal gold panners operating there and their activities were behind the water shutdown. Council noticed that water in the river had become unusually dirty and upon investigations, learnt that it all emanated from the panners.
“It was then suspected that the gold panners had possibly used dangerous chemicals that could not be treated by our ordinary water purification processes. It was then resolved that all pumping should be stopped and samples taken to a laboratory in Harare for testing. After the results came back negative, normal water pumping resumed. We are sorry that was not clearly communicated to residents,” said Mapuvire.
Other residents accused council of profiting from desperate tenants occupying its ‘demeaning’ hostels in the suburbs.
“We can’t continue with the legacy of Ian Smith who put business ahead of human dignity by building for us demeaning hostels with no privacy, and with no place for a decent family set up. We say council should sell those hostels so that the new owners can renovate and improve them,” said Watson Mafuya.
The councillors responded to the concerns by saying council had already agreed to dispose of the hostels to tenants to give room for their improvement.