Raymond Jaravaza, Showbiz Correspondent
AS the heavens open up, the first rains drenching the sunbaked earth and bringing relief to water-scarce Bulawayo and surrounding areas, some residents of Entumbane suburb see the downpours as both a blessing and a curse.
Across the Matabeleland North, Matabeleland South and Bulawayo provinces, the recent rains came as a welcome relief to the rural folks, urban dwellers and farmers in particular as it signalled the start of the farming season.
But for one water body — the infamous Enkwalini, christened the Pool of Death in Entumbane suburb in the City Kings, whose water levels will surely be rising with each drop of the precious liquid from the sky, local residents shudder at the thought of seeing another body floating in it.
The calm, clear waters of Enkwalini do not reveal their tragic secrets to the casual passerby with little knowledge of either it or the Entumbane community that surrounds it.
To someone who has no idea why Enkwalini is known as the Pool of Death, the water body situated not far from houses on the periphery of Entumbane suburb, it is just a harmless deep chunk of land that traps huge amounts of water.
But to the community of Entumbane suburb, who have over the years, woken up to the sight of dead bodies, presumably as a result of suspected suicides floating in Enkwalini, the water body is nothing short of a prolific killer.
Authorities estimate the number of deaths that have been recorded at Enkwalini to be more than a dozen in the last couple of years and most of the deaths have been categorised as premediated acts of suicide.
And as the rains continue to pound the City of Kings, some residents in Entumbane suburb have every reason to be apprehensive at the thought of water levels at Enkwalini filling to the brim.
“I have lived in this house for many years and I’ve witnessed police and those divers (Zimbabwe Republic police Sub-Aqua Unit) retrieve about five bodies in the last three years. We forbid our kids from playing anywhere near Enkwalini because so many people have died there and I personally think that the place is cursed.
“How can so many people die at the same place? Something is not right about that place and now that it’s raining again, I wonder how many more people will commit suicide there,” Gladys Nkomo tells Saturday Leisure.
In 2017, the Pool of Death claimed a 43-year old victim Ngoni Savanhu. His lifeless body was discovered by a young boy while on a fishing expedition. The youngster, while hoping to reel in a few fish, got more than what he had bargained for when he stumbled upon what his innocent eyes will never forget until he day he departs this earth.
The discovery of Savanhu was nothing to the residents of Entumbane, who have seen more bodies being pulled from the Pool of Death, which appears to have an appetite for human lives than just a water body. A few months earlier, Dalisa Ntele had met her end at the same water body. The same movie had played out again, the only difference being the characters as the Pool of Death had claimed another life.
Residents could only wonder what had befallen their neighbourhood to deserve the constant sights of bodies being pulled from the water body, just a walk away from their suburb.
“We appeal to members of the public not to resort to extreme measures when they’re having difficulties. It’s important to engage other people who can assist in coming up with solutions to problems,” said Bulawayo police Inspector Precious Simango at the time of Savanhu’s death.
Yet for residents of Entumbane suburb, warning people to seek help when confronted with life’s trials and tribulations is not enough.
“We can’t stop people from committing suicide, some people give up and think ending their life is the best solution, but as residents, we want a lasting solution to the Enkwalini problem. The city council can fill it up with sand and stones altogether because as long as it remains here, more people will keep committing suicide,” opined Sabelo Mpala.
There have been suggestions for the city authorities to install a fence around Enkwalini as a deterrent to the would-be suicide victims. But Mpala reckons a fence would not stop a person intent on ending their life from diving head first in the Pool of Death.
“The other problem with fencing off the place is that people will just steal the fence for use at their houses and we’ll continue to see more dead bodies,” said Mpala.
While there are many factors which can influence a person’s decision to commit suicide, the most common one is severe depression. Depression is considered to make people feel great emotional pain and loss of hope, making them unable to see another way to relieve the pain other than ending their own life.
Recent statistics released by health experts point out that at least 65 percent of patients that are attended to in Bulawayo, suffer from some form of mental disorder with drugs, among other issues, cited as a major cause of the problem.
Health experts stated that extreme cases have been referred to Ingutsheni Central Hospital where more than 600 patients are admitted due to extreme mental disorder. An accredited drug prevention and rehabilitation specialist, Mthabisi Ndlovu said the problem was being worsened by drug lords who have taken over the city, targeting the youths.
He said while 65 percent is the recorded figure, the percentage could be higher as there are other challenges such as economic hardships that are causing mental trauma to people.
“There could be almost 80 percent but, 65 percent is the documented figure,” he said.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), most people who commit suicide suffer from depression, which is, however, treatable. It has been emphasised that increased community awareness and education about mental health in general is important in reducing cases of suicide or suicidal tendencies. Statistics released in 2012 by WHO listed Zimbabwe as number 19 in the world and fifth in Africa in terms of suicides committed per 1 000 people.
Back in the dusty streets of Entumbane suburb, parents cannot over emphasise to their kids to stay away from Enkwalini.
“My kids are forbidden from getting anywhere near that pool. In fact, if I were to see a child playing near Enkwalini, even if they are not my biological child, I’d beat them thoroughly because I can’t imagine the pain of watching a young body being pulled out of there,” said a parent, Ruth Moyo.
Without a doubt, the water levels at Enkwalini will continue to rise as the heavens open up and the thoughts of more bodies being pulled from the Pool of Death will hover in the minds of Entumbane suburb residents. – @RaymondJaravaza