MAKONDE — It is mid-day on Friday when members of the Village Development Committee (VDC) gather in a small grass-thatched shade at headman Emerson Harata’s homestead to discuss the plight of villagers who are sharing drinking water with animals.
BY NHAU MANGIRAZI
Villagers around Residence 2, referred to as R2, say they are cursed for drinking water with both domestic and wild animals for 17 years after Zimbabwe attained independence.
R2 is part of Two-Tree Hill Estate within Makonde rural area under Mhangura constituency, where former Lands and Rural Resettlement minister Douglas Mombeshora is the Member of Parliament.
He once served as Health deputy minister in 2009-2013 in a coalition government between Zanu PF and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change factions.
Villagers were resettled on a valley, within remote outlying parts near Nyakorongo mountain bordering Two Tree Hills.
They poured out their grief and tortured souls last week on Friday, when the NewsDay crew visited them.
A sense of rejection was visible all over their faces.
Two Tree Hills remains one of the tourist attractions in Mashonaland West and the open dam, about 500 metres from surrounding villages, is the only source of water for them.
The villagers say they are a forgotten folk by authorities, as they are forced to share untreated water from an open dam built for animals by former white commercial farmers.
Clean water woes
Forty-seven-year-old Lameck Ncube, Ward Five councillor under Makonde Rural District Council, is among those in attendance and looks dejected realising that for umpteenth time the item on the agenda is water.
“R2 village has over 65 households resettled in 2011, as part of resettlement scheme. They face clean water challenges. As a community they have been to all responsible authorities for assistance to no avail.
“They are facing clean water woes. I am deeply hurt over the failure to have something good for them in terms of clean water,’ says Ncube.
He added that 10 people including five minors and the elderly were treated of diarrhoea at Richmond clinic, due to dirty water, late last year.
“District Development Fund (DDF) provincial head office in Chinhoyi knows much about the issue that has been pending for too long,” Ncube added.
Kota Chibanda (74) said he stepped down as a VDC committee chairman, due to frustrations after a decade in office.
He says no official bothered to come to their assistance to drill a borehole.
“I was VDC chairman for 10 years and I went to every office presenting our water problems here and nothing ever improved.
“Some of the workers are no longer there although they continued to give us false promises. It was frustrating that I was part of a committee delivering people’s concerns but nothing positive came out of it,” Koto said in a rather low voice.
He added he went to Makonde district administrator, DDF as well as the Health ministry offices among other stakeholders, with water samples that enhanced calls for clean and safe water but to no avail.
“The water was tested and proved to be unclean and unhealthy for human consumption,” he said.
Jevias Goto (54), current VDC chairman concurs that it is disheartening that no-one is listening to their plight.
“It is a pity for us, as no one seems to care. We have shared drinking water with animals for too long,” a dejected Goto said.
Women worst affected
Chairperson for the water committee, Priscilla Mareverwa (36), added her voice saying, as women they remain the worst affected by the water crisis.
“During the dry season women wake up around 2am and spend the better part of the day waiting to get water. We have domestic animals including cattle, goats and donkeys using the same small unprotected sources of water near the dam as well.
“Even dogs swim there and we have nothing more to do except to drink the water with animals. It is our daily routine. It is our hope that one day those in office will come and assist us to get clean water here,” she said.
Mareverwa, a mother of four, added they were surviving through God’s grace.
“We are surviving this through the grace of God,” she added.
However, DDF provincial coordinator, Ernest Chikande, was said to be out office and his mobile phone was unreachable while Mombeshora did not pick up his calls.
He did not respond to text messages left on his phone about the water plight for R2 villagers that has been going on for the past 17 years.
Villagers near mountains are getting the worst of United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 6 that seeks universal access to safe and affordable drinking water for all by 2030.
The SDG says there is need to “protect and restore water-related ecosystems such as forests, mountains, wetlands and rivers is essential if we are to mitigate water scarcity.”
For villagers near Two Tree mountains getting dirty water remains unbearable, for survival.