IN yesterday’s issue of NewsDay we carried what can be considered a very disturbing story which in all fairness speaks volumes about the calibre of many among us, including our leaders.

The story pointed to why our once beautiful country has gone to the dogs and continues to fail to have adequate potable water.

In the story we were told that ministries, parastatals, local authorities, mines, schools, churches and influential people mainly in government owe the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa) a jaw-dropping US$27,3 million.

Zinwa spokesperson Marjorie Manyonga painted a sorrowful picture of the plight of the water utility saying: “The authority advises all clients whose accounts are in arrears to settle their bills as there exists a strong relationship between sustainable service delivery and payment for services. When clients are not paying for the services they get, Zinwa consequently becomes inadequately resourced to provide reliable services.

“Zinwa also requires resources to carry out the capital intensive and statutory dam inspection and maintenance exercises so that dams are kept in a safe state. Funds are also needed for the expansion and rehabilitation of existing water reticulation systems. The authority is also required to meet statutory obligations that include the payment of taxes, levies and creditors.”

It is our considered view that Zinwa needs to be more aggressive as opposed to sweet-talking debtors who are threatening its and our very own survival.

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It also baffles the mind how Zinwa continues to provide water to people who it knows will not pay for the commodity, while at same time it is afraid to name and shame the culprits clogging the parastatal’s debtors’ book.

While Zinwa says it is “installing prepaid water meters to curb the further groeth of the debtors’ book”, there is no guarantee that it will be able to install the gadgets at premises of seasoned defaulters.

We believe that in instances such as these which have a major bearing on the entire nation’s wellbeing, defaulters must be named and shamed to deter them from continuing to short-change everyone.

If Zinwa continues to be this nice to selfish institutions and individuals, we will have little to no choice, but to blame it for creating a water crisis the day it completely fails to provide the precious liquid.

How can Zimbabwe dream of becoming an upper-middle-income country even in a thousand years when there are people determined to get free water which costs a fortune to be delivered to them?

We have said it before and we will keep repeating it, that providing free water, especially to urban areas is a dangerously unsustainable proposition. Sooner than later Zinwa will also start defaulting on its own obligations — which most likely it is already doing — and a culture of defaulting will manifest and turn the country into a nation of defaulters.

A stitch in time saves nine. But for Zinwa, it will only be able to save itself and everyone from a looming disaster if it decisively acts on defaulters. After all, there is no law which bars it from unflinchingly demanding its pound of flesh.

In fact, heads must roll at Zinwa for allowing defaulters to keep accruing debts.