Harare firms reel from water crisis

BY FIDELITY MHLANGA/MISHMA CHAKANYUKA /TAFADZWA MHLANGA

Harare-based companies say they are bearing the brunt of the serious water problems facing the city with the tourism sector calling for an urgent solution to the crisis.

The capital city was last week forced to shut down its main water treatment plant after it ran out of water treatment chemicals.

Besides the foreign currency shortages that have hampered the council’s ability to import the chemicals, the city’s supply dams are drying up due to a severe drought.

Industry minister Mangaliso Ndlovu told standardbusiness that the temporary closure of the Morton Jaffray water treatment plant caught companies by surprise.

“The closure was instant and there was no prior warning given, hence we did not get time to engage them on possible options,” he said.

“We were already adversely affected by the rationing before the shutdown of Morton Jaffray and my take is that the situation is likely to worsen.”

Tourism Business Council of Zimbabwe CEO Paul Matamisa said there was need for urgent intervention to address the water crisis, which he said posed a serious threat to the tourism industry.

“We are worried about the water situation in the city of Harare. Water is life and tourists require water, people in the industry require water,” he said.

“Something urgent has to be done. While some are using borehole water to augment supplies, the water table has gone down.

“We call upon council to come up with a plan to ameliorate the situation.”

Zimbabwean companies are already grappling with persistent fuel and power shortages that have grossly affected production.

The 18-hour-long power cuts have forced companies to rely on diesel-powered generators to remain operational.

Economist Kipson Gundani said Harare’s water shortages would further weaken the country’s fragile economy.

“The absence of key enablers such as water and energy and fuel is worrisome,” he said.

“This intensification of water shortages will exacerbate the already volatile situation.
“No doubt it will also increase the cost of doing business where companies will resort to buying water for their operations. It’s a tragedy.”

Economist John Robertson said the market was shrinking due to the economic environment and not much change was to be expected in the short-term.

“People are losing their jobs and the rate of informal jobs is getting higher. Taxes are also getting higher. Due to the shortage of foreign currency, producers are failing to import raw materials,” he said.

“There is also reduced consumption because of the high prices, so producers are facing serious problems.

“Although the rains were very low during the 2018/19 farming period, farmers would have done much better if they had access to loan facilities.

“In the short-term, I am not sure if there will be much change, but if the exchange rate becomes stable, at least foreign investors would make their way to the country.

“Also having our own currency would make things better. We keep hoping and I think it should be okay by next year.”

Zimbabwe’s economy has been in the doldrums since 2013 and President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government has been struggling to turn the corner.

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