Zimbabwe: Harare Water Woes Should Now Be History

23 September 2019
opinion

Finally, the City of Harare has bowed down and admitted that it is incapacitated to supply residents with adequate running tap water and is now seeking assistance from Government and independent engineers.

Water problems have persisted in Harare and the MDC-led council chose to be quiet for a long time, further worsening the water situation with clear signs that it is heading for the worst.

The painful part is that women and children are at the receiving end of these water shortages.

Globally, it is believed that women and children spend more than four hours, walking for water each day, and more than 840 000 people die each year from water-related diseases.

Additionally, 500 000 children die from drinking contaminated water and until everyone has access to safe and reliable drinking water, the death toll will continue to rise.

In Harare, Glen View and Budiriro suburbs were the hardest hit during the recent cholera and typhoid outbreaks that claimed lives and left many hospitalised.

The water crisis is solvable if the municipality had been serious to end the scourge.

Instead of addressing the issue which directly affect humans, top executives from the Harare City Council are in the habit of diverting money to buy personal vehicles.

It is fact that insufficient clean water for basic needs impacts negatively on health, education and economic productivity.

If communities lack the means and institutions to build and maintain clean water and sanitation systems, residents are exposed to diseases like typhoid and diarrhoea.

Municipalities should create synergies with central Government and stop politicking because conflict will only create a situation where services are limited at best.

Accountability is the issue that local authorities should address in order for them to improve on the water solutions in the country.

Even with rising populations, as the city fathers claim, the problem is not about the amount of fresh water readily available, but getting it properly distributed and managed.

The world over, it takes sturdy establishments and collective efforts to make water clean, safe, flowing and allocate it fairly to all citizens.

It is a known fact globally that groundwater is being exhausted in untenable ways, surface and groundwater supplies are becoming more contaminated, old infrastructure is triggering an increase in water losses and non-revenue water, and growing populations along coastlines are resorting to more expensive desalination because freshwater supplies are insufficient.

Municipalities thus should become smarter and manage the valuable resource wisely and avoid denying citizens their right to clean water as guaranteed in Section 77 of the Constitution.

The council, which has been sending mixed signals, is now pinning its hopes on Government, something they should have done a long time ago.

The corruption-riddled MDC-led Harare Municipality, which is struggling to provide clean water, should now stop mixing council affairs with politics and concentrate on partnering Government to end water woes facing ratepayers.

Last Thursday, Government released $37,3 million in local currency and another US$2,2 millon in foreign currency towards interventions to improve water access and waste water treatment in Harare.

According to Finance and Economic Development Minister Mthuli Ncube, the funds from Government are earmarked for the completion of Morton Jaffray Water Treatment Plant, overhaul of the water distribution network, sewer reticulation system upgrade and installation of 8 000 residential prepaid meters.

Council should now desist from its old habit of diverting funds and ensure that the facility will improve the livelihoods of the people of Harare who have suffered enough.

In the past, there have been revelations that Harare City Council clandestinely bought 50 cars worth US$2 million from the US$144,4 million loan facility secured from China to rehabilitate the capital city's water and sewerage infrastructure.

This impudent behaviour suggests that accountability and transparency at Harare council is terribly wrong and need to be addressed for progress' sake.

It is clear that the city officials do not really care about the plight of Harare residents.

This should end and funds should be channelled towards the improvement of livelihoods.

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