By Kundai Marunya
Failure by Government and local authorities to cut roadside grass and monitor urban agriculture is posing a serious danger to citizens.
The uncut grass now provides perfect cover for the growing numbers of muggers, and smash and grab thieves in different parts of the country, particularly urban areas.
Though the growth of crime is largely linked to unemployment and Covid-19 related socio-economic challenges that have left the informal sector crippled and the formal sector struggling – poor service delivery is aiding in the increased number of muggings.
Areas under Goromonzi Rural District Council have overgrown grass, which muggers are taking advantage of. The problem saw many people losing valuables, especially during the festive season.
“My brother was mugged and got seriously injured as he tried to fight them off,” said Goromonzi resident Taona Mukushi.
“They attacked in the middle of the day from the cover of grass.”
Harare, residents are experiencing similar incidents in various suburbs with the number of muggings high in medium and high-density suburbs.
“It’s now scary moving around in some areas because of high rate of muggings as thieves most of the times hide in the tall grass along roadsides,” said Dorothy Madyira who lives in Glen View.
“These days it’s now best to walk in groups.”
Motorists have also not been spared by smash and grabbers.
“They throw eggs at your windshield. You have to either stop and clean it or risk veering of the road,” said a Waterfalls resident Goodswill Ruwizhi.
“When you break your car to clean the eggs off to ensure better visibility, they then advance from hiding, smash your windows and grab whatever they can.
“This happened to me earlier this month. In the process I lost my cellphone, laptop and some cash which was in the bag together with my passport.”
Ruwizhi lost his valuables while driving along Masotsha Ndlovu Way.
Motorists are also complaining of disrupted vision from the overgrown grass, which now poses the risk of accidents.
“At curves and junctions the grass is disrupting vision. One just has to guess what’s around the corner,” said Ruwizhi.
“We pay our rates to the council, and we have long complained about the same problems year in, year out but nothing ever changes, in fact, it’s getting worse. The service delivery is just terrible; we need councils to prioritise our safety, and that of our children.”
Ruwizhi said if left uncut and urban farming unmonitored, even rapists can take advantage of the cover to violate women and children.
“The safety of residents should be the top priority of our council,” he said.
Ruwa experiences a similar perennial problem of muggers during the rainy season. These usually operate from the maize fields along roads and paths.
Usual hotspots are along the railway line as residents use shorter ways from Mutare Road to residential areas such as Mavambo and Manake.
Gweru also experiences similar problems.
“This has been going on for some time and it’s a norm that every time we receive rains the grass around the corners of all roads should be cut, and grass around our roads should also be trimmed, because this will help around the security and safety of citizens,” said Gweru Residents and Ratepayers Association (GRRA)’s Cornelius Selitswe.
“What’s currently happening is our local authorities never attempted to do that. It’s been a while since I have seen the tractor that used to move around town cutting grass, this simply means that they no longer have that tractor.”
Selitswe said Gweru has been rocked with serious service delivery challenges.
“This goes to show that our service delivery has gone to the dogs but as residents we are prepared to partner with our local authorities, if they want to in terms of slashing.
“What is funny and what is not acceptable is that they don’t even have the slashers to give out to residents so that they can assist with grass cutting,” he said.
“The overgrown grass then becomes a very serious challenge in terms of accidents that might happen, and a serious challenge in terms of muggers and thieves.”
Selitswe urged partnerships in problem solving between local authorities and residents.
“This (overgrown grass) is a very serious challenge and I appeal to our local authorities that they need to buy slashers, approach us as residents and we are prepared to clean our own for no payment.
“We are ready to partner them in developing our areas into what is healthy, safe and beneficial to all.”
Various communities take initiatives to clean up their areas, some even going on to employ the neighborhood watch to reduce crime rates at hotspots.
Cleanup campaigns which often include cutting grass and removing ill-disposed waste have traditionally been held in various cities even before the President moved to adopt the initiative making it a monthly occurrence nationally.
These have, however, been ditched due to Covid-19 restrictions as they include large gatherings. Efforts to get a comment from Webster Mukwati, the Public Relations Officer in the Ministry of Local Government and Public Works were futile.
City of Harare public relations department’s Innocent Ruwende was yet to verify on the official position by the time of publication.
Service delivery has however been on a downward spiral over the past couple of decades.
The roads across the country, rural and urban councils are in terrible shape, while major cities have struggled to provide water, frequently collect waste and maintain sewer systems which are overwhelmed by an ever growing population.
In recent months, central Government has been on a crusade to politicise failure in service delivery by MDC-run urban counsels, vowing to takeover and “restore order”. Nhau/Indaba