Masvingo Residents Forum (MRF) members yesterday 23 April 2021 peacefully gathered at Masvingo council offices with their empty buckets in protest of the water shortage faced by the city since last week. Nine MRF members (5 women and 4 men) including its secretary-general Prosper Tiringindi, R Mavhenge, A Mufamba ward 5 chairperson, Mataga Clara, Christine Mukuma, Viola Masuma, Kudzai Chamunorwa, Matter Zigwata and Leeroy Taylor were arrested for this peaceful protest.
These members have been charged with section 37 of criminal law codification participating in an unlawful gathering with the intent to promote public violence. The water crisis has caused a lot of damage to both the social and economic development within the communities and women in particular the availability of water is vital towards women empowerment. It is also important to note that both women and girls are exposed to several verbal and physical abuse at water collecting points. The 9 appeared in court at Masvingo magistrate court and granted $5000 bail each after spending a night in police cells.
Masvingo residents and ratepayers are facing drastic water challenges following the power cut at Bushmead waterworks. Residents have gone for weeks and other locations like Victoria Ranch goes for over five months without accessing tapped water and as such, this has affected many families and few industries left operating. Life becomes hard for child-headed families, elderly people, the disabled and even those with chronic illnesses. Child headed families are affected to such an extent that they sometimes miss out on school. Residents are spending prolonged hours at water sources (boreholes) that are not even enough to cater for all the families in need within the city. Sometimes residents walk at night to access water from the city bowsers that provide water at late hours also violating the Covid 19 lockdown measures.
MRF condemned the unlawful arrest of its members on baseless charges. The Zimbabwe constitution guaranteed everyone the right to safe, clean and sanitation for them to live a dignified life. Water is very important for a healthy life. No one can exercise other rights (to work, to life, to education etc) if they do not enjoy their right to water. Painfully the local council is not regularly communicating with residents concerning the water challenge. Recently the council suspended its engineer for incompetence but since then the water crisis is becoming worse each day. As MRF will continue engaging the council using different non-violent methods till all residents and ratepayers gets enough water