Comment: Spare a thought for the residents


Former United Nations secretary-general Kofi Annan once said: “Access to safe water is a fundamental human need and therefore a basic human right.”

Indeed Annan is right, because water is life.
That is why it is regrettable and unacceptable that municipalities have allowed a situation where residents go for days, months or even years in some instances, without water.

The disturbing scenario is not unique to Harare, but has become a nationwide worry and health scare.

Bulawayo, Masvingo, Mutare, Kwekwe and Chegutu are all crying for water, the most basic human need which local authorities and, by default, government have failed to provide.

The failure to provide water to the people mirrors poor governance, arrogance and unacceptable recklessness.

People who are supposed to serve the masses are simply not doing so. What they have chosen to do is to preoccupy themselves personal interests.

Meanwhile, it is the ratepayers, the poor workers and pensioners that are forced to pay without fail, exorbitant water bills who are made to suffer.

Harare Water director Christopher Zvobgo, in a document entitled “Inadequate Supply of Water in Harare”, argues that demand has outstripped supply.

Zvobgo says the water crisis is a result of aged infrastructure and pipe leakages, among other reasons. Herein lies the problem.

The council is just as bad as a doctor who can only diagnose, but cannot offer a prescription.

What the ratepayers want to hear is not how this problem came about, but what the solutions are.

Harare’s current water demand stands at 1 200 megalitres a day, but council can only supply half that amount.

What measures has the local authority put in place to plug these leakages? What is the council doing to make sure that aged infrastructure is replaced?

These are the questions Mayor Muchadeyi Masunda and his charges must provide answers to rather than tell us what we already know.

Where is the money the ratepayers are shelling out every month going to? Does the council have the manpower to deal with leakages?

Yes, Harare Municipality is owed millions in US dollars by other councils, government departments and businesses, but the million dollar question is what are the city fathers doing about collecting the debts except cry foul? Have they heard of debt collectors?

The reason why the issue of water must be taken more seriously than all other matters council may consider urgent is that the lives of people are at stake here.

Cholera stalks out there and it will take a single case to trigger an epidemic.

An estimated 6 000 people were infected by the disease in 2008 and many died. Can Zimbabwe afford to fold hands and watch as the men and women whose mandate is to provide potable water literally play Russian roulette with people’s lives?

The excuses being put forward are simply unacceptable.

While local authorities bear the ultimate blame, the people whose rights are being trampled upon must also take some flak for watching and doing nothing about the non-delivery of basic services.

The people must, through their local leaders, keep the authorities on their feet and councillors must, in turn, play their role and run councils professionally – including monitoring city managers.