Yeukai Karengezeka and Sallomy Matare
Harare City Council yesterday had a taste of its own medicine when it was forced to close its main revenue offices at Rowan Martin owing to water challenges. This comes at a time when residents have voiced concern over council's failure to supply them with water consistently.
Perhaps this will help jolt the officials into action, since they were hit where it hurts most - the affected building, Rowan Martin, is the city council's revenue collection nerve centre.
The city council has failed to provide adequate supplies of water for years, despite carrying out works which it told residents were meant to improve the system.
While the shortages have in the past affected residents only, yesterday's events showed the situation is now also badly impacting on the city council, with Rowan Martin Building going for two weeks without water.
This is the second time that the city has been forced to close its offices due to water problems.
In August, it was forced to close its Remembrance, Mbare District and Harare Municipal Police offices in Mbare after at least 55 workers contracted diarrhoea when they drank water from a contaminated borehole at the premises.
The latest directive to close Rowan Martin was issued by human capital development acting director Mr Matthew Marara.
"This letter serves to advise that Rowan Martin Building has been closed with immediate effect," he wrote. "The building has been without running water for over two weeks, thereby exposing our employees and stakeholders to water-borne diseases such as diarrhoea, dysentery, cholera and typhoid."
When The Herald news crew visited the building, scores of workers were seen leaving their offices for home after receiving an instruction from officials to do so.
Some of the workers who spoke to this publication on terms of anonymity said they were operating without tap water for almost two weeks.
"We were told to go home because there has been no water for about two weeks now," said one of the workers. "The environment was unhealthy for us, so we welcome this directive."
Another employee said they were not sure when they will return to work.
"I am not certain when we will be back to work, but I hope by next week on Monday," he said.
In an interview, acting corporate communications manager Mr Innocent Ruwende confirmed the development, but said they had not completely closed the offices.
"The building was never closed to the public, but to some employees," he said.
"We remained with skeletal staff because we could not keep a huge number of people without water.
"Ratepayers were conducting normal business. It was a pump failure, but water supplies have now been restored."
Mr Ruwende said the "partial closure" of the offices at Rowan Martin was an act of conforming to the Factories and Works Act Chapter 14.08 RGN 263: Provision of Safe Water at Workplaces and Public Health Act Chapter 15.09, Water and Sanitation.