By Zwelethu Zikhali
Kamativi, August 27, 2016 – A health hazard is looming in Kamativi in Matabeleland North Province as residents of the now defunct tin mine have resorted to drinking raw water from two nearby dams following a breakdown of a water pump.
Hundreds of residents of the Kamativi Tin Mine compound have gone without water for two weeks and Hwange Rural District (HRDC) has been failing to replace a pump forcing people to share water from the dams with wild animals.
They are expected to purify water for themselves.
One of the dams – once an open cast site – was reportedly condemned by the Ministry of Health and Child Care a few years ago because its water is contaminated with mining chemicals.
With dry taps, the option is to draw water from the crocodile infested DRC Dam and Dam 4 just outside the mine.
DRC Dam is however notorious for crocodiles as in the past some individuals have been attacked while fetching water or fishing.
Residents told RadioVOP that the water from the dam is dirty because crocodiles also kill livestock and wildlife and they have to buy purifying chemicals which a majority of them cannot afford because they are jobless following the closure of the mine in 1994.
“We have been without water for a long time and we fear one day there will be an outbreak of waterborne diseases because people are now drinking water directly from the dam which is not safe.
“Even if they give us tables to purify it, I don’t think it’s safe,” said a resident Nelly Phiri.
HRDC is responsible for providing water to the compound whose majority occupants are jobless families now relying on fishing in the crocodile infested dam for survival since the mine ceased operations.
Kamativi Residents Association chairman Edgar Nkomo has placed blame on the local authority.
“Council workers are very negligent as they leave the engines to run unattended which is why they always break down. Because of this negligence, people are now drinking water from a dam which was
condemned by health experts and that puts the whole community at risk.
“DRC Dam is also very dangerous because there are crocodiles which also kill animals on a daily basis.
Three years ago a person was killed in the same dam while another was amputated following at attack
by the reptiles,” said Nkomo.
The councillor for the area, Councillor Joshua Tshuma defended the local authority saying it was working hard to restore the situation to normal.
He however, dispelled fears of a health hazard saying people were being given tablets while some buy purifying chemicals from the shops to treat raw water for consumption.
“The engine at the pump station broke down and we have been trying to get the bearings to fix it. It will be fixed soon,” said Cllr Tshuma.
He added: “We sometimes have erratic water supplies and people are given water tablets to purify it but we don’t encourage them to use dam water because of its state and the crocodiles. They should fetch
from available boreholes until the situation is normalised.”
Residents however, said the boreholes are a distance away from the compound and there are long winding queues each time because they also share with surrounding villages.
Hopes were high that the new investor for the mine Beijing Pinchang Investment of China would quickly move on site and fix the water situation but that hasn’t happened.
Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC) signed a $102 million Joint Venture Arrangement with the investor last year to resuscitate operations at the mine which ceased operations in 1994 after the price
of tin on the international market declined from about $18,000 per tonne to less than $3,000.
At the moment the international prices of tin are hovering between $15,000 and $22,000 per tonne.