BPRA activities for the weekend (19 and 20 November 2011)

This weekend, Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association (BPRA) will be holding two training workshops which are penciled in for Ward 25 (Nketa) and ward 18 (Magwegwe). The training in Nketa will be held on Sunday 20 November 2011 at the Early Childhood Pre-School while the one in Magwegwe will be held on Saturday 19 November 2011 at Magwegwe pre-School. The training workshops are part of the Residents Leadership Development Programme under which residents’ leaders in all of Bulawayo’s 29 wards will be trained in the Urban Council’s Act, the Environment Management Act, Gender and Participatory Budgeting. The two trainings to be held over the coming weekend will cover the Urban Council’s Act and the Environment Management Act.

Commuters bemoan police corruption

Commuter operators plying Luveve road have said they are fed up with corrupt police officers. Initially they had passed complaints about traffic police that always find faults but require bribes from the commuter operators. Currently the issue they have is with various departments of the police force as they all require bribes from the commuter operators. Some commuters witnessed riot police monitoring traffic along Luveve road and soliciting for bribes from public transport operators. The first logical thing that comes into one’s mind is that police have presented themselves with the privilege of unnecessarily soliciting for bribes even where their services are not relevant. Residents have said that by virtue of engaging in such criminal activities the police force does not deserve respect but instead security sector reform should be prioritized.

Residents continue to suffer as load shedding persists

Bulawayo residents have expressed dismay over the increase in the already rampant load shedding by the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA). Residents said that it is common knowledge that load shedding will not be done away with anytime soon as the power utility, ZESA, has announced in the public media that load shedding will not cease. The power utility officials have said that the collapse of some of the electricity generating equipment at Hwange Power Station and the fact that the Bulawayo Thermal Station is not operational mean that  the electricity available is not sufficient to sustain the nation. In response to this residents have asserted that the power utility should not give excuses for its failure to maintain equipment. Part of the responsibility of the parastatal is to ensure smooth running of all its equipment and its failures should not belabor the residents.

Consultation of residents a priority

Commuter operators operating from Sekusile terminus in ward 22 have passed complaints about the lack of community engagement by service providers. It is alleged that one company, not known to residents, erected bill boards at the terminus to help commuters locate public taxis. No efforts were made to inform commuter operators of the new development as such the facilities are a white elephant. Commuters do not make use of the notices as they continue to board from undesignated areas. The commuter operators have said that had they been formally notified of the developments they would gladly make use them. They added that all service providers should engage locals in the areas they will be working in.

Residents call for community projects

Emakhandeni residents are calling on various humanitarian organisations to assist them by providing fertilizer and maize seed. Residents said that they welcome initiatives that offer sustainable development in the wards. The BPRA ward chairperson reported that there are orphans that can benefit from these schemes as child welfare is failing to cater for all their needs. It has been said that the ward has a number of volunteers that would gladly take up responsibility in nurturing the maize until harvest time then equitably distribute it to orphans and other vulnerable groups within the community.  

Poor service delivery fuels gender inequalities and global warming

As the world shifts its focus to the environmental man-made disaster of global warming, it is increasingly becoming mandatory for local leaders to ensure that they buttress international efforts to stop climate change by advocating  environmental preservation through better service provision to their citizens. In late September the world lost one such leader, Wangari Maathai, a woman of great courage who saw the planting of 30 million trees under her Green Belt Movement in Kenya.

Maathai was handed the Nobel Peace prize in 2004 for efforts to combat deforestation and promote women's rights. Poor service delivery has in many instances led to environmental degradation as society tries to meet their basic needs by taking from nature albeit without ploughing back. Often, power cuts in developing countries will lead to the cutting down of trees and the burning of fossil fuels which is unhealthy for humans when inhaled.
The incessant power shedding and failure to supply power to all parts of the country leaves many homes with little choice but to cut down trees. As part of their domestic duties, women and children are faced with the burden of looking for alternative energy sources which are usually dangerous for their health and degrades the environment. At an environment level, it must be understood that trees act as a carbon absorbent by taking in all the carbon toxins from cars, industry and burnt firewood amongst other fossils. Thus, the more trees are cut down, the lesser the ability of the environment to regulate these toxins which in turn pollute our air and also damage the ozone layer.
At a human level, nearly 2 million people die prematurely from illness attributable to indoor air pollution from household solid fuel use. Nearly 50% of pneumonia deaths among children under five are due to particulate matter inhaled from indoor air pollution. More than 1 million people a year die from chronic obstructive respiratory disease (COPD) that develops due to exposure to such indoor air pollution. The chronic power cuts have not yielded any sense of responsibility for the service provider Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA) which has so far failed to seek out alternative energy generating means or to at least carry out safety and awareness campaigns amongst the paying residents on how to use environment safe alternative energy.
Poor service provision is the basis for many societal ills including poverty, disease and gender imbalances amongst others. Basing on definitions by various development institutions, Zimbabwe is fast becoming a fragile state. Fragile states are those where the government cannot or will not deliver core functions to the majority of its people, including the poor. They lack the will and or the capacity to manage public resources, deliver basic services, protect and support the poor and vulnerable. The failure by service providers like ZESA to invest in research and awareness campaigns to save lives and the environment points more to a lack of will than an inability to meet the needs of society. 
ZESA is not alone in its negligence. Zimbabwe’s capital city has for years been without a constant supply of clean running tap water. The second largest city Bulawayo still has no reliable water sources. The road network is in a chaotic state. Security of property in light of ZESA power cuts coupled with corruption the incapacity and infrastructural challenges facing the country’s police force plainly leaves the citizens at the mercy of both natural and man caused disasters. Refuse collection in Bulawayo currently happens once a month if at all and burst sewerage pipes are an eye sore in many parts of the country. The failure to provide more space to informal traders in the city or to liberalise vending policy in the city has led to many people practicing large scale urban agriculture to meet their food needs. This is at times at the expense of the environment.
Therefore, while governments may sit in conferences and deliberate how to circumvent the “natural” disasters caused by climate change, it is ironic that the policies made by the same governments at a national level thwart these efforts and even go further in worsening the situation. For instance, if the Zimbabwe government does not change policy to allow more players in the power supply market, then Zimbabweans will continue to cut down trees. If the government does not reverse the centralised system of power then peripheral development will continue at a slow pace affecting the capacity of local authorities to efficiently access resources to offer better services.
It is women who suffer the most from poor service delivery which drastically reduces their quality of life. Due to the fact that it is women citizens who are in charge of cleaning up their homes and thus getting rid of domestic refuse, they are the ones usually forced to dump rubbish in undesignated areas when city council does not collect rubbish regularly. This increases the amount of non-biodegradable left unmanaged in the environment and which can further pollute our water sources. Furthermore, in order to cut costs and meet their basic food needs, it is mainly women who practice large scale urban agriculture and in-turn face economic losses when their crops are cut down by city council authorities. When women cut down trees to meet their families’ energy needs, they face the risk of arrest, health deterioration from cutting, carrying and burning of these trees. At worst women even have to use sex to gain access to land with lots of  firewood and to avoid arrests. The current situation is a clear indication that gender and environment discussions are still a cosmetic issue not implementable at grassroots levels because policies still work against the majority poor and marginalized groups. It is thus important that leaders and service provider think critically about the impact of certain laws, actions and failure to provide adequate services to different groups of customers. Policy evaluations must ensure that no laws encourage further environmental damage or gender inequality.

Early tests can help prevent breast cancer

A few months ago Deputy Prime Minister Thokozani Khuphe revealed that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer, a disease that claims thousands of lives in Zimbabwe and Africa annually. Cancer, which manifests itself in different forms has become very common in African in last few decades with breast cancer being one of the most fatal types especially for African women. Breast cancer is caused by the growth of malignant tumors (cancerous cells) in the milk producing glands of the breast. Overtime these cells can invade nearby healthy breast tissue and make their way into the underarm lymph nodes which work to clean out foreign substances in the body.
While the disease can be detected early and in such cases be treated or even redressed, the expenses related to its treatment, a lack of information and proper medical facilities to manage the disease in Zimbabwe has led to a number of deaths from it.
"There is so much stigma that remains against breast cancer, and that's particularly true in Africa," says Hala Moddelmog, president and CEO of Susan G. Komen for the Cure. "A woman who gets breast cancer in Africa is afraid her husband will leave her and that she will be ostracized by society, and even lose her children if she admits she has breast cancer."

While the above are extreme examples of the unfortunate circumstances surrounding the disease, even more immediate challenges face Zimbabwean women who usually have no sense of where to go for help or how to begin to fight this disease. Zimbabwe’s medical facilities are so far not adequately equipped to treat most types of cancers forcing those with money to seek treatment in South Africa as has been done by DPM Khuphe and her counterpart in government Vice President John Nkomo who also suffers from another form of cancer.  However for most Zimbabweans, more so women, who are not well resourced enough to seek treatment outside, being diagnosed with the disease is as good as a death sentence.  
There has been a significant rise in breast cancer cases amongst women in developing countries over the last few decades. While the World health organisation states that 30% of cancer cases are curable, close to half a million women died from breast cancer in 2008. As such, Government, health organisations, civic society and individuals have a lot to do when it comes to raising awareness on breast cancer. While a lot of due work has been done to raise awareness on HIV/AIDS related cases, a refocus on some avoidable or manageable diseases must also be made to ensure that no unnecessary resources are spent on cure instead of prevention.
While many believe breast cancer to be hereditary or to run in family genes, researchers have found that only 5-10% of cases are inherited from a mother or father. This means that almost 90% of cases are caused by the “aging process and way of life”[4]. In other words there are certain things one can do in their day to day life to reduce the risk of developing breast cancer.
Experts recommend that maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, limiting the intake of alcohol, totally cutting out smoking and a healthy diet can all contribute to the reduction of risk of contracting breast cancer. However this does not cancel out the need for regular mammograms which are scans to detect the presence of cancer producing cells in the body. These are better done annually but are very expensive and facilities are out of reach for many women especially in the rural areas.
At the burial of Tongai Moyo, a prominent musician who died of cancer recently, DPM Khuphe revealed that she and the late Moyo had been working on a project to set up a cancer center[5] to help bring awareness to the disease as well as to garner support for cancer patients in Zimbabwe. Considering that many people still do not know about the diseases, this is a welcomed development that would most like boost similar efforts to combat the disease.

It would indeed be noble for government to ensure that mammogram tests are available at all government hospitals and community health facilities at a subsidized cost or free of charge. Campaigns to raise awareness and to get women tested must go beyond just holding workshops in the month of october to ensuring that a nationwide test drive for breast cancer is carried out annually in the same mould as the child vaccination campaign carried out twice annually to reduce child mortality rates. It is thus our hope that the Cancer center, once set up, may be the starting point for wider concentration on the effects of breast cancer and the drive to raise awareness on how to manage or fight the disease.