In the Runyararo West neighbourhood in Masvingo, a city in southern Zimbabwe, house flies buzz and zing as if possessed, madly landing on anything and everything in sight. The flies are a product of the Masvingo City Council dumpsite, which is piling up at the edge of the Runyararo West neighbourhood and posing a serious health hazard to residents.
Apart from being an eyesore and a source of unbearable stench, the dumpsite is a breeding ground for insects, worms and rodents. Citizens have long remained quiet about the menace of the dumpsite, but this is slowly changing as they become aware of their social, economic and political rights.
“They say that the life expectancy of a house fly is generally 15 to 30 days, but the rate at which flies are being produced at the dumpsite is simply too high. These flies are making life in the neighbourhood unbearable and the city must do something about it,” said Chipo Matsetsa, a member of the neighbourhood’s residents committee that is working in partnership with the Masvingo Residents and Ratepayers Association (MURRA) to lobby officials on key issues that affect residents.
Hivos Southern Africa Hub (Hivos) provides support to MURRA to enable them to conduct advocacy training among the residents, especially women and youths who are often left out of decision-making processes yet are directly affected by non-delivery of services.
“We’re pushing for the removal of the dumpsite. Imagine if you leave milk out in the open, these damned flies make a quick party out of it, it’s disgusting,” said Mirian Mazando, a member of the residents committee.
Apart from the dumpsite, residents in Masvingo’s Ward 3, where Runyararo West is located, have also been lobbying the city council to improve the state of the roads, fix sewer pipes, build schools and ensure water availability, among other issues.
“We’re totally fighting on behalf of ourselves so that service providers do not take advantage of our ignorance. We are taking social activism by the horns, we have already seen a lot of improvement as a result of our efforts,” said Robert Makado, one of the committee members.
According to Rocky Kamuzondo, chairman of the Ward 3 residents’ committtee, prior to MURRA’s engagement with the community residents were isolated and divided.
“We had no knowledge about the council and its responsibility. But now we report on issues that affect us, we are keeping the officials accountable,” said Mazando.
Through the “Citizen Action for Better Governance,” project, funded by the Royal Netherlands Embassy under the Human Rights Fund, MURRA is building the capacity of Masvingo urban residents to exercise their constitutional socio-economic and political rights. The anticipated result of the project is improved citizen participation, better service delivery and accountable local government officials.