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Trees, grass grow inside Mpilo mortuary

By Robin Muchetu

Trees and grass have grown in a structure that was supposed to house a mortuary at Mpilo Central Hospital in Bulawayo which has not been completed 25 years after its construction started.

The abandoned mortuary building site at Mpilo Hospital
The abandoned mortuary building site at Mpilo Hospital

The hospital has recently been dogged by problems that have exposed the institution’s dilapidated infrastructure.

Last week, fire damaged a block of flats that housed doctors in the process destroying property worth US$500 000.

Apart from the mortuary, some of the incomplete structures at the institution include a chapel and residential flats.

So old is the mortuary structure that trees are now growing inside the incomplete building while overgrown grass covers the outside. The structure was meant to be bigger than the mortuary in use at the institution.

Mpilo Central Hospital acting chief executive officer Professor Solwayo Ngwenya proposed that the incomplete structure could be used for other purposes.

“The contractor has been there for many, many years. But there hasn’t been any contact yet that I am aware of with him as far as I can remember. His contract was done from Central Government together with Sally Mugabe Hospital.

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The Government tried to build these structures in both sister hospitals,” said Prof Ngwenya.

He said although he was not privy to details of the project, he called for its resuscitation.

“I think the Government must resuscitate this project and since we have acute shortage of accommodation, we can change its use from being a mortuary to living quarters and this can easily be done from the structures that are already there. This will alleviate the problems that we have with accommodation. We should look towards investing in areas where people that are alive will use rather than in a mortuary. There is also a chapel there that was never completed, that too can also be turned into a residential area,” said Prof Ngwenya.

A senior official at the institution who spoke on condition of anonymity said construction of the structures started in 1996.

“The mortuary construction was started in 1996 by a private contractor who worked very fast initially but later abandoned the site leaving one security guard to man the area. The reason why it has overgrown grass and trees is that it is a site that will have been handed over to a contractor and as an institution we are not allowed to go in, even to do things like grass cutting. Normally, when you hand over sites, the contractor is the one that is responsible even for maintenance and upkeep,” he said.

The official said it was against the institution’s policy to invade a site without the contractor’s knowledge.

“As a contractor works, he has his materials in there, so if you move in to clean and things go missing it becomes our problem. It’s a no-go area until the contractor comes back to us to show us the project and hands it over officially to us.

“The equipment that the contractor left is even rotting in the incomplete building and we have not touched it. The contractor had gone as far as roof level, so even the trusses and beams that were installed have all rotted,” said the official.

The same contractor, whose name could not be established, was also constructing a chapel which was also abandoned. Health and Child Care Deputy Minister Dr John Mangwiro, who toured the incomplete structures last week, said he was not impressed.

“These tree roots growing inside the building may have damaged the building by now, don’t you think so? This mortuary needs to be completed, I need to know when work can start even just to remove these trees and weeds,” he said.

Dr Mangwiro also proposed that as officials were budgeting for the cost of repairing the burnt-down flat, they must also include the cost of completing the mortuary. The Sunday News