IT is a few minutes before midday and the new Makombe complex, which is now handling passport applications, is a hive of activity.
Hordes of e-passport seekers patiently queue outside awaiting their turn to submit their documents.
Many, especially first-timers, are excited at the prospect of having a passport hoping to seek better opportunities beyond the country’s borders.
But something is tarnishing this new building. An occasional putrid smell wafts from the new complex’s toilets and green buzzing flies make frequent visits from the toilets.
Many a time, the toilets are either out of order or have no running water.
And just around the corner next to the new complex is the old Makombe building and between the two buildings is a small alley, which is being used by people seeking to relieve themselves because they cannot do so at the new complex.
Both men and women take turns to use the same stretch in the alley.
A recent visit by NewsDay observed that the practice is causing discomfort to those seeking passports and other identification particulars.
“While we applaud the smooth process for acquiring the world-class e-passport, we are unhappy about the lack of functional toilets,” Saidi Mlauzi from Glen View said.
He said people had devised a strategy whereby men go to the open space in a group and leave behind one to alert women.
When the male group is done, women follow suit, completely oblivious of people in the adjacent building.
The stench emanating from the alleyway is nauseating.
“Sometimes we can see people watching from the windows. It is de-humanising and a clear violation of our dignity as women,” said an elderly woman who requested anonymity.
Walking along the narrow path is quite a task and it is tantamount to skating through a minefield as one needs to carefully negotiate around faeces and pools of urine.
There is an old toilet just after turning the corner, which also overflows with all sorts of excreta.
Those, who are brave enough, end up sneaking into the dingy space, but many prefer the open space.
Outside the door of this old toilet is old furniture which is rotting along with everything
Officials at the new complex said the toilets were overwhelmed and the scarcity of water exacerbated the situation.
“Even when they are open to the public, the situation in there is disgusting. Clients are too many and the system is failing to cope,” said one official who declined to be named because he is not authorised to speak to the Press.
The passport office is handling an average of between 900 and 1 200 applications per day.
A few metres away from the alleyway, vendors sell their foodstuff, occasionally swatting away green flies on their way to and from the alley.
They, too, use the same open space as toilets and rarely wash their hands before handling the food they sell.
According to the World Health Organisation, open defecation perpetuates a vicious cycle of disease and poverty.
It creates breeding ground for diseases like diarrhoea and cholera.
When human waste collects into heaps, it attracts flies and other insects.
These flies then go around the surrounding area, carrying bacteria and disease-causing microbes, which they may deposit on food or drinks.
In such cases, the flies act as direct transmitters of diseases such as cholera.
The director for environmental health in the Health ministry, Victor Nyamandi, had not responded to NewsDay questions by the time of going to print last night.
Meanwhile, down the road (along Leopold Takawira Street) just after the Girls High School main gate is a mountain of garbage that has been piling up for weeks.
Street children and touts are also using the pile as a cover while relieving themselves.
Many have raised concerns over uncollected garbage in Harare central business district, but the local authority has failed to live up to its billing and turn Harare into a first-class city.
In February, the authorities promised that garbage collection would improve following the purchase of 10 new refuse compactors, five skip trucks, and one front-end loader.