Mashonaland West Bureau
It is Monday, February 7 around 4am, Mr Clifford Munava is still asleep as he enjoys the bed a few hours before waking up to a busy day. In the twinkling of an eye, he is awakened by a series of blast sounds.
Munava, who is in his late-60s, is among Chinhoyi residents that were on Monday forced to cut short their sleep due to multiple explosions.
Some of the early birds, particularly women from Brundish and Hunyani who were fetching water from low-lying areas of the high-density suburbs, were forced to take cover from the warlike sounds.
Irregular water supplies have characterised and given identity to the opposition-led council with other areas having gone some years without receiving a single drop of the precious liquid from their taps.
To many, this marked a beginning of a war time, one that ended 42 years ago when Zimbabwe got independence from the white minority-led regime.
Ten houses were damaged by the impact of the vibration and fragments of the rock that were strewn a few houses from the blasts site while many hypertensive patients claim they were affected by the blasts.
“We had to take cover from nearby houses as he feared for our lives. A series of blasts took place before a certain man said they were coming from a road working site,” said one Evelyn Gumuyu from Brundish.
Sekuru Munava said: “Many thought the blasts were gunfire or bombs but, having experienced war during the 1970s, I knew the sounds were far from anything warlike. Besides, Zimbabwe has been and will always remain peaceful, only those coming from outside Zimbabwe will think the sounds were coming from bombs, not a Zimbabwean.”
One Joseph Mpombi said he rushed to switch off his electrical appliances thinking that the blast, which was heard from about 8km away, was coming from a faulty electrical transformer.
The blasts were coming from a road site in which a contracted company is rehabilitating it in line with the Emergency Road Rehabilitation Programme (ERRP-2).
But the residents, some of whom had their houses’ roofs and windows destroyed by the explosions and rock fragments, said no communication was given by the council and or the contracted company regarding the scheduled blasts.
Chinhoyi Municipality also threw the company under the bus, saying it was also not informed of the blasts.
The contractor, Tarcon Pvt Ltd is working on the construction and tarring of a road that links Hunyani and Brundish suburbs and had sub-contracted, Zambesi Blasting to disintegrate a boulder stalling progress which was supposed to have been met by March this year in line with President Mnangagwa’s Vision 2030.
The two companies apologised for not informing the residents, with Zambesi having started to compensate those that got their houses destroyed.
The sub-contractor had tried three unsuccessful chemical compound solutions to defragment the boulder before resorting to blasting.
Said Zambesi chief operations officer, Mr Munyaradzi Muchabaiwa: “After getting contracted by Tarcon Pvt Ltd, we tried three times since December to disintegrate the seven-by-five metre granite rock using chemical compound but failed due to ambient temperature conditions.
“We then opted for a controlled blast to disintegrate the rock because waiting for favourable temperature conditions meant we had to wait until August.”
Mr Muchaiwa who admitted being wrong for failing to inform stakeholder, including the council itself, said one of the standard operating procedure of a controlled blast was to have a budget for contingents of some sort.
“Roughly, we are looking at spending least US$1 000 to compensate the affected families. We have attending to the affected families by replacing shattered glasses and roofing sheets,” he added.
Aggrieved residents have been advised to approach the company for assessments, with Mr Clifford Munava whose house’s windows were shattered by the blasts now waiting the company’s involvement.
Chinhoyi Resident Association chairman, Mr Clifford Hlupeko, whose organisation blamed the contracted company and council for failing to inform the residents of the scheduled blasting, said the residents agreed with the contract that Zambesi was supposed to repair the damaged houses within 72 hours since Monday.
“The contractor went on to check for those with health complications, and they assisted those who wanted medication, specifically those with high BP and diabetes and other related diseases,” he said.
Tarcon Pvt Ltd company’s site manager, Engineer Kudakwashe Ngogondo, apologised for the disturbances and the destruction of houses, said the exercise was done diligently and successfully considering the size of the rock that was stalling progress.
He added that while the company was being chided by residents over the roads construction works, they were working within the council’s specifics.
“We are working within the council specifics which were mainly to construct the road. The council hasn’t put any drainage system and this has started to affect our roads works,” he said.
The company, he said, was supposed to meet the defects liability period of 12 months despite the council not meeting its end of the deal.
The council has, however ,blamed clogged drainage system on poor waste management by the residents whose practices have led to flash flooding.
It has also made it routine to clear the drainage system across the town ensure that roads are not damaged.