THE recent admission by the Urban Councils Authority that most of its members had run out of water purification chemicals, implying that residents will endure a dry festive season, is regrettable, particularly in the context that most urban set-ups were recently the epicentres of cholera and typhoid outbreaks, which caused unnecessary loss of lives, particularly in Harare.
The reason cited by the councils is the all familiar song — shortage of foreign currency.
It goes without saying that government needs to relook its priorities and begin to demonstrate that it cares about the welfare and future of its citizens by allocating the little forex it has towards procurement of theses water chemicals.
There has been just too much talk of “development” in political corridors, but with nothing to show for it on the ground.
Indeed, residents will be left with no choice but to harvest rain water for use, and while this is a great suggestion, is it a sustainable strategy, given that the capital city, for example, has over the years failed to effectively deal with perennial water shortages caused primarily by lack of water purification chemicals and an obsolete water reticulation system?
The city has now been forced to reduce water production from 450 megalitres to 330 megalitres per day. Although the local authority has appealed to the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) to release foreign currency to procure the chemicals, there is needed to come up with more innovative ways of dealing with the problem.
It is not a secret that the RBZ is swarmed with such requests and is forced to balance the needs viz-a-viz the available funds.
Given that these chemicals are imported, the implication is that this is a problem that city councils will never be able to deal with alone and needs all stakeholders to come on board and assist.
In fact, it is critical that government revisits some of its political and economic policies as a solution to the water woes. The crisis cannot be separated from the macro-economic challenges bedevilling the country, which require a political solution.
There has been little investment in councils’ water infrastructure as the business environment in the country has increasingly become untenable despite President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s “Zimbabwe is open for business” mantra.
Just recently, the S&P Dow Jones Indices reported that it would remove Zimbabwe businesses from its African Indices, a development that would significantly dent investor confidence in the country. The implication is that many of the infrastructural problems we have been facing will remain, if not worsen.
The tragedy is that Harare will require a minimum of $2 million per month to procure water chemicals, most of which are imported.
A lot of money is often dedicated to other things that benefit the chefs, while citizens are left to deal with their own challenges, like spending the festive season without basics such as potable water, itself a human right.
Clearly, the political elite should be ashamed of themselves under the circumstances.