PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa has subtly blamed the opposition-run urban councils for the sporadic cholera outbreaks which have hit Zimbabwe.
Mnangagwa said without the drastic renovation of all local authorities, Zimbabwe will continue to suffer from preventable diseases such as cholera.
More than 100 people have succumbed to the waterborne disease while approximately 500 cases have been confirmed across the country.
Writing in his weekly column in The Sunday Mail newspaper, Mnangagwa said towns and cities in Zimbabwe had been run down through gross maladministration by opposition-run local authorities.
“Clean and safe drinking water is either unavailable or erratically supplied. Garbage collection services are largely dysfunctional, while broken sewers are a common sight, especially in our high-density suburbs,” he wrote.
“While water bodies can be provided to potentially meet clean water requirements for our cities, it has become apparent that such a goal remains a pie in the sky until our local authorities are properly and efficiently run.
“To compound it all, unplanned and uncontrolled settlements have created a runaway urban sprawl where uncontrolled human settlements have outpaced the provision of basic services that guarantee public health and essential amenities. Backbone infrastructure for water supply and reticulation in most of our towns and cities is broken, struggling, or non-existent.”
Mnangagwa said the solution to eliminating the waterborne disease is not improved healthcare, but more in “our service delivery level than in drugs, hospitals and clinics, themselves interventions of cure after preventive methods have already failed”.
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“In the absence of a drastic renovation of all our local authorities in the country, Zimbabwe will continue to suffer periodic outbreaks of preventable diseases, in spite of her many unused water bodies,” Mnangagwa said.
He said government would urgently roll out a nationwide borehole drilling programme as an intervention to ensure that the nation, in particular 35 000 villages, have access to a clean, safe drinking water point that is solar-powered.
The Citizens Coalition for Change, which controls most urban councils did not respond to the issue when contacted for comment.
However, Harare Metropolitan Residents Forum chairperson Marvelous Kumalo said Mnangagwa must stop the blame game and work with councils to come up with solutions.
“It pities that instead of being a solution-holder, the President is playing a hide and seek game, blaming the opposition for the mess that we find most of our urban local authorities in at the moment,” Kumalo said.
“Indeed, poor service delivery, especially lack of access to clean, safe and potable water, as well as chaotic waste management standards, are behind the cholera epidemic. But blaming each other will not address anything.
“We urge the central government to accept responsibility and take itself as part of the problem so that, together with local authorities, they can come up with sustainable solutions to service delivery challenges facing our communities.
“After all, local authorities are just sub-national governments that are part of the central government under the supervision of the President himself.”
Kumalo also pointed out that the responsibility to create more water bodies lay in the hands of the central government.
“The fact that the proposed Kunzvi and Muda dam construction failed to kick off is a case of misplaced priorities by the central government. The government allowed the population of Chitungwiza and greater Harare to continue to grow to millions of people while depending on the Morton Jaffray Water Plant, which was only installed to cater for a population of 300 000 people at most.
“On sewer system upgrades, the central government is supposed to provide funds to local authorities so that they match the rapid population growth, but the central government is not giving enough to these councils,” he added.
Zimbabwe National Organisation of Associations and Residents Trust national chairperson Shepherd Chikomba said Mnangagwa should not turn urban areas into rural areas by drilling boreholes.
“We urge the government that instead of ruralising our urban cities by drilling boreholes in our suburbs, it should help in building better infrastructure for water. Boreholes should be drilled in rural areas. In cities and towns, we need running treated tap water,” he said.
“We want councillors to know that when one is voted or appointed into a public office, they seize to represent their political persuasions but all residents within their areas of jurisdiction.”