Back then in 2002, her five children were still very young and they could not help her much.
“I could hardly walk because of the illness but I would be forced to do so as I had to frequently go to the bush to relieve myself,” Ndebele said.
“During the two years of my illness, I wished I had a toilet in my homestead but did not have money to pay for the construction of one.”
That time a lot of people in Mangwe, Matabeleland South, used the “bush system” and some would relieve themselves too close to homesteads, exposing themselves and other villagers to diseases such as cholera. Add to that, the embarrassment of being spotted “helping oneself” behind the shrubs.
Not anymore, said Sindisiwe Sibanda, a councillor for the area.
“Everyone, including those without money, now have toilets in their homesteads,” proudly declared Sibanda.
“Households with orphaned and vulnerable children, the terminally ill and those on anti-retroviral therapy benefited for free,” Sibanda said.
“In no time, our bushes became cleaner and we became less scared of waking up with cholera one day.”
The project has created opportunities for some builders who are now being hired to build similar facilities in other wards and across the border in Botswana.
The builders’ team leader, Thaddeus Dube, said they were training some youths to replace those who were leaving for greener pastures. This, he said, had helped many unemployed youths in the area.
Mvuramanzi executive director Cleophas Musara said Mangwe is one of six districts where they are implementing Euro 5 million (US$7,1 million) project funded by the European Union and Unicef to improve water supply and sanitation in the country. The other five districts are Bulilima, Hwange, Chegutu, Zaka and Chipinge.
The project stumbled due to cultural beliefs in some parts of Binga, where in-laws could not use the same toilet seat.
Funding for the project, launched in 2006, winds up in July but Musara said they would find ways to continue “to encourage people to change their minds over sanitation”.
He said the country’s sanitation coverage stagnated between 1990 and 2010. The situation is worse in rural areas where only 42% of the people have safe sanitation facilities compared to the 47% in 1990. Open defecation stands at 42%.
Sanitation guards to maintain order
Sanitation watch committees — comprising village heads, health workers and other villagers — have already been set-up in five villages of Ward 4 to ensure villagers maintain hygienic conditions.
“We visit homes to check on how the toilets are kept,” a committee member Molly Titiri said.
“Our teaching has always been that the toilet has to be cleaned every morning and then through the day as and when it gets dirty. The toilet water bottle should never run dry because people have to wash hands after using the toilet at all times even if one had gone in there to deposit a used tissue.”
Villagers are encouraged to keep the toilets and surrounding clean to avoid flies and mosquitos, and to wash hands with soap.
After noticing the shortage of ablution facilities in the area, Mvuramanzi Trust, a non-governmental organisation, intervened with a toilet-building project in 2008. They trained some 13 men and five women to construct toilets for villagers at a cost of 500 rand or one goat per unit.
Mvuramanzi provided 600 bags of cement and barbed wire for use in building the toilets, with each villager getting five bags.
Apart from paying the builders, the villagers fed the workers and provided pit sand and other building materials.