BY SILAS NKALA
THE Matabeleland Institute for Human Rights yesterday petitioned the Environmental Management Agency to rein in Bulawayo City Council (BCC) over disused open pits in residential areas that have become death traps.
The pits were left open by the council after extracting sand for road construction. The petition came after two males aged 18 and 20, drowned in the same pit at the weekend, bringing to three the number of people that have drowned in the pit inside four days.
In a petition to EMA, MIHR co-ordinator Khumbulani Maphosa said the open pits were both an environmental hazard and a risk to the residents.
“MIHR has visited some Bulawayo western areas and observed these pits which have been there for many years now; some for over 30 years.
“As an organisation we counted 17 such deadly pits. In Pumula South there are six, in Pelandaba West there are five, in Entumbane there are three, in Mpopoma there are two, and in Luveve it’s one,” Maphosa said.
“We note that these are not the only such pits in these areas, but these are the ones we recorded.”
Maphosa said Bulawayo lost five residents to the pits within a year, three of them being young children.
This year, Maphosa said, three people drowned in the pits in Pelandaba West and Pumula South.
“These are not the only deaths due to these pits as people have been dying over the past years.
“The BCC is aware of the existence of these pits and the danger that they pose to the lives of the residents,” Maphosa said.
He said on December 14, 2020, the issue was raised with EMA’s engineering services committee in Bulawayo, adding that the council was obliged to fill up the pits.
Maphosa said section 73 of the Constitution, read together with sections 44, 194, 276 and section 4 of the Environmental Management Act stipulate that any dangerous pits must be covered.
“We, therefore, request EMA to exercise its mandate as espoused in the Environment Management Act and specifically section 10 of the Act: (a) compels the BCC to close these pits.
“The boulders and hips of sand are already in the vicinity of these pits and can be used to fill them up,” he said.
He said a request should be made to the government to avail resources to assist the local authority to cover up the pits, should it face resource constraints.
EMA Bulawayo manager Sithembisiwe Ndlovu had not responded to the MIHR petition by the time of going to print last night.
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