Redcliff water crisis need to be thoroughly investigated and lasting solution found

Whenever I hear borehole drilling machines roaring and groaning away in my neighborhood of Redcliff, I always think to myself, "Here goes the sound of failure".

Tendai Ruben Mbofana

Certainly, not failure on the part of the one drilling the borehole – but, failure on the part of a town, (and, by extension, country) whose every system appears to have collapsed, even forcing urban dwellers, who had constant and reliable running water supply in their homes, being reduced to rural folk, as tap water has become a scarcity.

What a shame – especially for this small town of Redcliff, which used to be an envy of Zimbabwe, whereby, in my childhood, the mere mention that we were from “RISCO” (the then Rhodesia Iron and Steel Company) would evoke admiration and adoration from relatives in other parts of the country…most of whom (particularly living in the rural areas), did not know of Redcliff, or even nearby Kwekwe (then QueQue), but surely had heard of the giant iron and steel making RISCO.

This was a town known for its efficiency and relatively high standards of living – built and run by a company premised on principles of professionalism and innovation, which not only ensured that its employees were well-paid, but also worked and lived under safe, comfortable, and healthy conditions.

Yet, today, we stand out as a sore thumb in the entire country – singled out as one of the few urban areas without constant and reliable running water…more so, ever since the demise of our beloved ZISCOSTEEL (renamed after Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980), largely due to rampant high-level corruption, looting, and mismanagement.

As I write this article, we have not had a single drop of tap water for nearly a week – something that has become the norm, rather than the exception, thereby posing an unenviable health risk, especially in this hot weather, and in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, as most residents are forced to seek the precious liquid from all manner of sources.

Yet, the question remains – why has a problem that has been prevalent in this town for the better part of the past two decades not been resolved?

A week barely passes without one reason or another being proffered as to why we can not have running water – ranging from the failure by a defunct ZISCOSTEEL to pay its electricity bills (resulting in power supply being disconnected to water pumps and tanks that it still operates), to frequent breaking down of dilapidated pumping systems both in Redcliff and Kwekwe city (where our comes comes from), and non-payment of water bills by local residents.

Our water supply is a complex one – in which, residents buy from their local authorities, who in turn, procure from ZISCOSTEEL, which then purchases from the city of Kwekwe, who themselves acquire from ZINWA (Zimbabwe National Water Authority)…making our water the most expensive in the country.

As a result of ZISCOSTEEL’s inevitable collapse (since it could not be plundered and mismanaged forever) – most residents have been left practically destitute (surviving from hand to mouth), and unable to meet their ‘out of this world’ water bills – although, some of us do our best to meet our obligations, even though we seldom get what we pay for, and have to endure the humiliation of begging our neighbors, who have boreholes, for water.

Nonetheless, the stubborn question will never go away – “Why has this perennial challenge not being resolved?”

Due to the complexities surrounding water supply in Redcliff, this is clearly a matter for both the central government (which runs ZISCOSTEEL), and our local authorities (who are the duty bearers, and have the ultimate responsibility of ensuring that residents have access to this constitutionally-enshrined right).

It is a well-known fact that despite ZISCOSTEEL having built and run the town, most of the onus has been transfered to the municipality of Redcliff – as such, why has control of water supply remained in the hands of a dysfunctional and decrepit company, which is constantly failing to meet its electricity payments, resulting in frequent power cuts that affect water pumping to residents?

Similarly, if there are residents who are failing to meet their water bills, what is the local authority doing about it – considering that this is hardly a new phenomenon, but one that recurring administrations have repeatedly complained over?

Had there been any meaningful dialogue with residents – as opposed to continued threats of litigation and water disconnections – as a way of finding common understanding and a long-lasting solution?

What progress has been made in procuring and installing prepaid water meters – since, similar previous initiatives by ZESA (the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority) managed to significantly reduce the massive debt owed by its consumers?

As a matter of fact, there is urgent need for independent authorities (most appropriately, the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission, and others with such a mandate) to thoroughly investigate all these claims of residents not paying, so as to have a deeper understanding of just how much our local authorities are receiving, and how much is being used for the purpose of which it is supposed.

What measures have been put in place to replace rundown pumping systems, as well as finding a more convenient and cost-effective water source – considering that Redcliff already has a dam (Cactus Poort), which probably merely needs to be expanded, in order to meet the growing population?

All these issues I am raising here are not new – but, have been proposed by nearly every previous Redcliff administration…yet, absolutely nothing has been achieved.

The spotlight them falls squarely on our city fathers’ and mothers’ competencies and abilities to effectively and efficiently run this small town, as we question whether they can be trusted with its affairs.

When someone decides to run for office, they should possess workable plans, policies, and programs to address whenever challenges they promise to tackle.

In fact, nearly every one who has stood for the position of ward councillor, member of parliament, as well as those who have applied for administrative posts within the town, have been mandated to finally resolve this long-standing water predicament.

Yet, in spite of understanding the magnitude of these problems before even running for office, and assuring all stakeholders that they could address them – it has always been shocking hearing them regurgitating the same old excuses for their failures…residents are not paying for water, ZISCOSTEEL has not paid its electricity bill, and pumps have broken down.

We know all that! We have always known those issues! We are sick and tired of all the excuses!

We elected you (or, you were appointed into those positions) in order to proffer a lasting solution – and, if you can not, then it simply means you have failed, and are not worthy! Period.

© Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, author, and political commentator. Please feel free to contact him on WhatsApp/Call: +263715667700 / +263782283975, or Calls Only: +263788897936 / +263733399640, or email: [email protected]

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