Right to water is sacrosanct

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REVELATIONS that Harare’s Mabvuku and Tafara high-density suburbs have gone for 30 years without water calls for serious introspection on the part of the city fathers because denying people the precious liquid constitutes gross human rights violation.

This issue of unavailability of water is not peculiar to the two high-density suburbs. It is a manifestation of poor governance which cuts across all cities and towns.

In Harare, besides the two, Glen View, Budiriro and many other residential areas have also been without water for many years, which has seen outbreaks of diarrhoeal diseases such as cholera and dysentery in the above-mentioned suburbs.

In Bulawayo too, the issue of water is a burning one. Gweru is not spared. The country is gripped by a water crisis of proportions never witnessed before, but authorities seem not to care a hoot as evidenced by their level of politicking when it comes to providing a lasting solution to this perennial problem.

The United Nations passed a resolution in 2010 declaring water and sanitation as a human right.

Section 77 of our Constitution states that: “Every person has a right to potable water and the State must take reasonable legislative and other measures, within the limits of the resources available to it, to achieve the progressive realisation of this right.”

Hence central government, through the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa), is mandated by the Water Act to ensure the provision of raw water through water bodies, be they rivers or dams.

The Act states that water cannot be owned by individuals or organisations, but they can be issued with permits to use it depending on availability. Thus, local authorities cannot build dams to augment existing capacity. They rely on Zinwa for such a critical service.

Zinwa, being a statutory body under direct supervision of the Lands ministry, relies mainly on budgetary support, and that is where the politicking begins.

Government is aware that urban local authorities are hamstrung by the Act, which works to its advantage because it does not want them to do well since they are predominantly opposition.

This politicking has dealt a huge blow to development and the ability of local authorities to provide potable water.

One of the biggest companies in Bulawayo, United Refineries Limited, in November last year shut down operations because it had not received adequate water for a week.

This should have jolted any leader worth that name into action given the importance of that company to the city and the economy in general.

Government recently took over procurement of water purification chemicals for political grandstanding. What a shame!

Past scenarios have shown that the Zanu PF-led government has failed to rectify the water provision anomalies in opposition-controlled urban centres because it sees no political advantage.

The Zanu PF leadership should discard this brand of retrogressive politics because it does not disadvantage the opposition only, but all residents of the local authorities, despite political affiliation.

It’s high time authorities in the country respected the right to water by ensuring its timely and continuous availability.

Authorities must fulfil the right to water by taking action to ensure everyone enjoys this right.