Sakubva River: The Embodiment of Filth
MUTARE-Thousands of residents, especially those of informal settlements downstream of
Sakubva River continue to put their health at risk by continuing to use water drawn from the
river described by experts as a “dead”.
The ever flowing river carries with it a charcoal black color accompanied by a nauseating stench
that has over the years continued to be a deathbed for aquatic life with sewer and industrial
effluent being the major pollutants.
The banks of Sakubva River have also been subjected to years of stream bank cultivation with
market gardening being the most lucrative economic activity taking place in the high density
A soil science technician with the Africa University, Joram Tapfuma said the random chemical
testing of the river revealed that the chemical components of the water reflected a ‘dead’ river as
the contaminants themselves had killed all bacteria in the water.
“Although we did not analyse all the chemical components in the water, there are quite a number
of pollutants in the river. The pH levels are unconducive to support any form of aquatic life.
Taking a closer look at bacteria that may cause diseases to humans, we discovered there was
none. The bacteria actually died as a result of an unknown contaminant,” he said.
However, the ‘dead’ river is saving the lives of hundreds of people downstream, with families in
‘boardslum’ a sprawling informal settlement, flocking the river for water meant for domestic use.
The closely knit informal structures dotted along the river bank have a signature note of a make
shift well dug up close to the flowing river.
A visit by Pungwe News revealed that these make shift wells were meant to filter water from the
high water table, for domestic use by most of the households.
As an informal settlement, there are no water amenities available to cater for home use and the
inhabitants resort to using the river for laundry and watering their home gardens, ablutions and
dumping of house waste.
Though some denied using the water for home use and failed to explain the presence of such pits
at their premises, one of the inhabitants only identified as Mai Tinodaishe confessed that due to
the long distances they had to travel to fetch clean tap water, she had resorted to using water
from the wells for other household chores besides cooking.
“I usually use water from our make shift wells for doing the laundry and washing the dishes as I
save tap water for drinking and cooking purposes only,” she said.
She said she no longer had any qualms about using the Sakubva River despite having full
knowledge of its pollutants.
People can die from drinking contaminated water or eating fish from severely polluted ponds and
rivers. Legislation aimed at improving water conservation and protection, though laudable, has
failed to effectively curb pollution of the country’s water systems.
The mere mention of Mutare’s Sakubva River gives one the shivers. The river which originates
somewhere in the foothills of the low density suburb of Murambi and meanders through most the
residential areas of Mutare to the southern high density suburb of Hobhouse, is the embodiment
The Mutare City Council and Environmental Management Agency have however commended
efforts by a local residents group, Mutare Rivers Rehabilitation Initiative, in trying to reduce
pollution and save the river from further and future pollution.