Rotten Row Magistrates’ Court has not had running water for the past two weeks, a problem that has haunted the justice delivery establishment since the beginning of this year.
The cause of the water woes at the country’s biggest and busiest magistrates’ court is the aged water pipes, built over 30 years ago, that are constantly breaking down.
The public works ministry appears to have no capacity to deal with the problem as evidenced by the trenches that were dug four months ago and have remained uncovered in front of the court building.
Credit should be given to provincial magistrate Mishrod Guvamombe who has enlisted the services of prisoners who have been flushing the toilets using water buckets.
Prisoners, clad in their white prison uniforms, have become a common feature at the court where they are always running up and down inside the building with full water buckets to flush the toilets while some attend to leakages.
“Engaging private plumbers would assist in this problem because every day a vehicle is dispatched to collect public works employees but nothing seems to work because the ministry lacks capacity to deal with the problem,” said a concerned civil servant based at the court house.
On Friday prisoners could be seen filling up the trench in front of the court after new pipes were recently laid in an effort to deal with what seems to be a perennial problem.
“It is a matter of great concern that the water problem has not been attended to as a matter of urgency. People’s lives are at great risk in the event of a disease outbreak,” said Isaac Mukoma a litigant.
The courts have many times been forced to abandon afternoon sessions due to the non-availability of water thereby creating backlog of cases.
“There is no running water in the toilets, we are now relying on getting water to drink for staff and the large number of litigants visiting the courts daily from neighbouring buildings,” said a court official who preferred to remain anonymous.
Provincial magistrate Mishrod Guvamombe, in charge of the Harare province, preferred not to comment on the health hazard that the courts have become.
“I cannot comment on such matters,” Guvamombe said. “You can get comment from the chief magistrate’s office.”
The administrator in charge of the province, Simon Chipumha, also declined to comment and referred questions to Guvamombe.
“You can ask the provincial magistrate, I cannot comment,” Chipumha said.
A prosecutor who declined to be named said there had been no major service to the courthouse’s plumbing system since its construction more than 30 years ago.
“Since the building was commissioned over 30 years ago, no major maintenance of the plumbing system has been carried out except attending to leaking pipes and blocked sewers.
“The court requires a complete sewer overhaul and that may probably solve the problem,” said a prosecutor who declined to be named.