Two weeks ago I went to a garage along Mutare Road for car service when I excused myself for the washroom (toilet).
The mechanic reluctantly directed me to a cook at a “canteen” within the premises, who then directed me towards the washroom. I was greeted by a pungent smell as I walked in and what I saw is indescribable.
I immediately marched out and confronted the “canteen” owners. I asked them why they were cooking food next to a dirty, stinking and non-flushable toilet.
The two women looked down as I charged them with many other questions. I asked them whether this was a registered eating place and if it was where was the licence? There was no response.
Right opposite the toilet entrance, were plates of food that had just been eaten. Flies were buzzing all over the place and I must say that made my tummy turn inside out.
The “canteen” is a small room that has grey walls and a very rough and unclean floor. Water is poured from a container for domestic chores and I must say this was just awful.
Outside the “canteen” stood workers from various parts of Msasa who had come to buy lunch from there, but I doubt if these people were aware of the toilet conditions.
When I got back to the garage workshop, I told the mechanics about the state of affairs and they said the owner of the premises was reluctant to work on ablution facilities and yet he demands so much for rentals.
One of them said they drive to other takeaway shops in the area for that service, a situation they said was not good for any kind of business.
He said that none of the people working at these premises buy food from that outlet because of the unhygienic environment at the one-roomed canteen.
“You can imagine a situation where one has a running stomach. This is bad. We have asked the owner to sink a borehole, but that has also fallen on deaf ears.”
There are so many business premises in Harare and to be precise bottle stores that have been converted into drinking and eating spots that do not have any ablution facilities.
A visit to some of these concerns during the day will shock any hygiene-conscious person. Business owners rake in so much money from sales, but not much is done to construct or improve toilet facilities.
Imagine eating tasty food and then visiting a dirty smelly toilet afterwards. Isn’t that something consumers should protest about?
But we see men and women patronising these bottle stores especially at night, and instead of using the filthy toilet at the bar, they have since resorted to relieving themselves in the open.
I fail to understand the reason why Harare City Council is failing to clamp down on these unscrupulous businesspeople who have failed to adhere to municipality by-laws.
Most popular drinking joints are not adequately supplied with ablution facilities and should you find one, it could be just one or two for the hundreds of people that eat and drink from there.
In fact, ever since Zimbabwe’s economy was liberalised a couple of years ago, many people ventured into the catering business, but this has, however, not been monitored effectively so as to check on food standards and controls.
Although it is very true that food cooked, for instance, at KwaMereki in Harare, could be much safer than that sold at restaurants and some hotels, there is need for city fathers to regularise these places by building ablution facilities for patrons.
Food at KwaMereki is cooked and eaten hot, with no storage facilities like what happens at established restaurants and hotels.
“Patrons buy meat from the butchery which goes straight onto the fire. The sadza they eat is steaming hot and that is definitely freshly-made food. But there is need to ensure the environment where this is being done is clean and has running tap water,” said a delegate at a Food Controls conference that was held in Harare a couple of years ago.
It is, however, imperative for Harare City Council to constantly monitor such premises because the reality on the ground is that food is eing cooked everywhere and dished out from vehicles, pavements and high-rise buildings.
The food is obviously cheaper than that sold from established restaurants and cash-trapped workers in the city are the daily cash cows.
Council should ensure all supermarkets and new buildings have dozens of toilets and urinaries to service the large numbers of customers that patronise these shops.
A popular supermarket in the Avenues has one toilet in the restaurant area and nothing at the supermarket section. I was once told that the toilet they had was for their workers. But suppose I develop a runny tummy or loose bladder during shopping?
It is so embarrassing for one to be denied access to a toilet especially for those that take high blood pressure pills that make them release urine regularly.
They want your money, but you cannot use their toilets. The solution to this problem is to come up with fee-paying toilets to service the general public.
But council should, in the meantime, make it compulsory for these businesspeople to have mobile toilets before life-threatening waterborne diseases break out in the city.
The rainy season is around the corner and we all know what that means in the face of dirt and human excreta strewn around the city.