Reports of residents in Zimbabwe’s urban areas resorting to the bush toilet system because the cities have no running water are not only disturbing, but frightful too.
They bring back memories of the 2008 nightmare when over 4 000 people across the country died from diseases associated with water shortages, such as cholera and typhoid.
In Gweru, residents are reported to have gone for a week without water while in some areas of Harare and Chitungwiza residents have had no running water for close to a whole month.
What this means is that our cities are now sitting on a health time bomb and there is need for government, through local authorities, to attend to the issue as a life-and-death matter which it is.
It is hard to fault critics that, in light of such a crisis, question the wisdom of Zanu PF, through its official, Ignatius Chombo, the outgoing Local Government minister, to scrap water and other utility bills. The move no doubt incapacitates local authorities’ efforts to deliver clean water to residents of our towns and cities. Political pontification cannot come above human life and politicians should really be wary of the temptation to sacrifice the lives of people on the altar of politics.
Local authorities have already implemented the debt scrapping directive and many of them, like Bulawayo, have been prejudiced of many millions of dollars.
So, the city fathers and local authorities executives have to grapple with the water crisis with empty coffers and a disgruntled workforce that goes for months without pay.
Other councils, like the Harare City Council, are running everywhere looking for financial bailout, but not all of them will be lucky.
Yesterday, Harare was negotiating with the Chinese for funding for water development programmes Major national water programmes such as the Kunzvi Dam which has remained on the drawing board for over three decades have crumbled, just like other national projects such as the Zambezi Water Project and the Chitungwiza Railway Project, among others. Other projects that would have benefited from the money that government, through the ruling party, has decided to throw away for political mileage include the Mtshabezi Dam pipeline.
The country’s cities have been taken back to medieval means of water sourcing and transporting the precious liquid on bowsers. The difficulty that urban dwellers would have in trying to understand the reality that cities are genuinely failing to supply residents with water are the tacit threats by the Head of State, President Robert Mugabe, that his government would not look after the needs of urbanites because they voted wrongly in the past election.
Still, we remain with some hope that as he appoints his new Cabinet, the President will take congnisance of the fact that a Local Government minister should be one that is up to the task. A hardworking technocrat that handles matters of our cities with a level head — and not greed, corrupt and selfish political animals.