Urgent action, not talk, needed on water crisis

Women carry buckets of water in Harare’s Budiriro suburb recently. This has become a common sight since the city council is failing to provide the precious liquid

The City of Harare has borrowed $144 million from Chinese company Sinosure to rehabilitate the metropolis’ decrepit water infrastructure.

NewsDay Editorial

The loan, council officials say, will see an improvement in the delivery of water to residents, some of whom have gone for more than a decade without use of municipal water.

It would be naive though to link the funding to improved water supply because local authorities in Zimbabwe have no history of service delivery. The Harare City Council has announced a myriad of initiatives to improve service delivery, but the rhetoric has not been matched by execution. The situation keeps getting worse by the day.

Harare, like most urban areas in the country, is a victim of poor planning at both local and central government levels where inefficient and corrupt officials have presided over the decay of key infrastructure, mainly the water reticulation system and the road network.

Promises by council officials that funding from China would see an improvement in the delivery of water to homes and industry are as unbelievable as assertions made by the same local authority last year when it acquired pothole-patching machinery. Indeed potholes are very much still a part of our life in the capital despite the pomp and ceremony that accompanied the launch of the equipment.

The same can be said about rubbish collection which has not improved despite council commissioning trucks acquired through funding from a local financial institution and from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The Harare City Council is always quick to point at the paucity of resources at its disposal to improve service delivery, but it is critical that the local authority demonstrates convincingly to residents its ability to make a difference with the little resources available. That means planning intelligently to ensure the development and protection of the city by maintaining infrastructure.

There is all the evidence that the city is wasting its assets and depriving future generations of any benefits accruing to the nation. It is mind-boggling how a city which has a tiny fleet of ramshackle ambulances sees it fit to buy a fleet of breakdown trucks to wage a daily war against motorists and kombi drivers.

Despite the presence of these council wreckers, disorder in the CBD has not been done away with at all.

It is, therefore, fundamental that Harare residents demand a paradigm shift in the conduct of city fathers. Every home in the city deserves to have water and a working sewer system.

The Chinese loan is a welcome development, but we wait to see the evidence that the money was put to good use. There have been various attempts to improve the water situation in Harare, but these have come to naught. The long-term solution to the crisis, the Kunzvi Dam project, has failed to take off despite many promises and delegations coming into Zimbabwe to say they are ready to build the new reservoir.

Government and the City of Harare have been tinkering the fringes for a long time and the result has been a slow death of the capital. The city needs a proper handyman.