Water provision in disarray

Water provision in disarray

HARARE, 8 August 2008 (IRIN) - Another diarrhoea outbreak in the
middle-class suburbs of Zimbabwe's capital, Harare, is leading to growing
calls for water treatment to revert to local authorities, after a decree a
few years ago gave central government the responsibility.

The opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has made Zimbabwe’s
urban areas bastions of support in the past few years, and it was this shift
in political loyalties that led President Robert Mugabe’s government to
create the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (ZINWA), which took away bulk
water treatment and distribution from city councils.

Critics of the policy maintain that control of water treatment and awarding
contracts for the supply of chemicals provides lucrative kickbacks for the
politically connected.

ZINWA’s track record is widely viewed as disastrous, even by The Herald, the
government-controlled daily newspaper. “Today, as we fast approach a decade
of ZINWA’s existence, the plans [for service delivery] remain in boardrooms
and all the nation gets are frequent updates of the challenges facing the
authority,” said an editorial this week.

“Today, water shortages persist, and if everyone is to be honest with
themselves, ZINWA is merely giving the same excuses for non-delivery that
local authorities gave when they failed to fulfil their statutory
responsibilities,” the paper said.

Under ZINWA’s tenure raw sewerage has been discharged into Lake Chivero,
Harare’s main reservoir, while raw sewerage routinely overflows into
township streets. The capital has experienced several outbreaks of cholera,
dysentery and diarrhoea in the last few years. The water authority claims
the lack of foreign exchange makes it unable to undertake routine repairs
and maintenance.

The outbreak of waterborne diseases has also been exacerbated by the failure
of ZANU-PF appointed commissioners to ensure refuse collection. Harare’s
city health services director, Stanley Mungofa, announced this week that the
eastern parts of the capital had been hit by another diarrhoea outbreak, but
did not provide statistics.

“The city is currently experiencing pockets of high incidence of diarrhoeal
diseases which could be attributed to the current water crisis, but no
deaths have been recorded,” Mungofa told the Herald.

“Water shortages in homes, schools, churches, beerhalls and other public
places are of grave concern to the city, as the hygiene in those places and
the health of people is severely compromised,” he said.

Harare’s recently elected non-executive mayor, Muchadeyi Masunda, said
reclaiming bulk water treatment and distribution from the government was a

“Quality water provision is one of the items topping my agenda. Indications
are that all is not well at ZINWA in terms of meeting their mandate of
providing quality water.”

Farai Mangodza, chief executive officer of the Combined Harare Residents
Association, said the residents had “consistently called upon the government
to reverse the ZINWA takeover and return the responsibility to manage water
supply to the city council.”

“We condemn the government for failing to appreciate that the residents are
suffering as a result of its arrogant decision to manage water supply,” he

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