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Masunda turns Harare into a village

It had been over two decades since I last took a bath with rain water harvested from asbestos sheets.


I had to do it a few days ago.

We had gone for several weeks, if not nearly a full calendar month, without getting a single drop of the usually smelly council water from our taps.

Even neighbouring suburbs, where I usually scrounge for the precious liquid, were in the same predicament, if not worse. While I was harvesting water from the roof of my house, I realised that I was not alone as several others in the neighbourhood were doing the same.

It reminded me of my childhood, growing up in the rural areas, when we would venture into torrential rain, stark naked, and run in circles around the house.

Then I enjoyed it.

What the Muchadeyi Masunda-led Harare City Council has managed to do is to turn back the hands of time. Like in rural areas, it is now common to see women and children in Harare, carrying all sorts of containers, moving from one well or borehole to the next, looking for water.

This is how the City Fathers in the “Sunshine City” have turned Harare residents into “water scavenging villagers”.

Despite this noticeable crisis, it is surprising that the council, which dreams of turning Harare into a world class city by 2025, has not been making visible efforts to address this problem.

What is more worrying is the council’s insistence that tap water is clean for us despite scientific evidence to the contrary.

Numerous tests, some by scientists from the University of Zimbabwe, have shown that the water that council is pumping into our homes falls below the World Health Organisation standards.

This is why Masunda and company at Town House probably never drink water from the tap, but they still have the audacity to misinform us that it is fit for drinking purposes.

Notwithstanding dollarisation in 2009, which saw many sectors of the economy improving, our council has dismally failed to collect refuse on a regular basis, exposing residents to diseases.

But still we pay our rates.

Over 4 000 people have died in Harare since 2008 following the outbreak of waterborne diseases such as cholera, typhoid and dysentery.

I lay the blame squarely on Masunda and company because they have failed to collect refuse and deliver clean water to ratepayers, who continue to drink from condemned boreholes.

Surely, they must feel guilty if they have human hearts.

Informal settlements have been allowed to mushroom.

The bad situation of our roads has spiralled into a disaster. Driving around the town’s suburban areas is now a nightmare because of the potholes, some deep enough to submerge the whole wheel, especially for vehicles with low clearance.

Last week, I had to be pushed out of a “crater” that has been allowed to widen in the middle of the road at some traffic lights in Glen View 8.

Other vehicles nearly rammed into me as they tried to avoid other potholes nearby.

One of my rescuers joked that motorists must now drive around with long sticks so that they can measure the depth of submerged potholes on our roads before they attempt to manoeuvre their way.
The situation is almost the same in all suburbs — talk of Warren Park, Malbereign, Waterfalls, Hatfield and Kambuzuma — just to mention a few.

I was shocked to also see deep potholes along the Harare-Bulawayo Highway.

The next morning, the potholes had been filled with what looked like sand and a few pebbles which, by mid-day had been swept away by rains.

Does this mean the council cannot afford to buy tar and bitumen to patch the potholes or resurface the roads?

How did former Harare Mayor Elias Mudzuri manage to keep the city clean, with fewer potholes and pumping clean water during a time the economy was most depressed?

Is it not wise for the learned Mayor to get a few tips from him?

City suffers neglect

Grass continues to grow along road sides, obstructing motorists and causing accidents, especially at intersections.

I have noticed that almost three quarters of traffic lights in Harare are not working properly and it appears there is no effort by council to address the problem.

The solar-power traffic project, once touted as the panacea to the problem, has flattered to deceive.

It is now a nightmare to drive in Harare’s central business district (CBD), especially during peak hours because of congestion worsened by the absence of functional traffic lights.

I can’t talk of street lights anymore — they are history.

People I spoke to believe poor service delivery in the council emanates from the strained relations between the Mayor and the councillors. They said Masunda, a lawyer by profession, is opinionated and does not listen or respect the councillors.

He considers them uneducated and unable to comprehend complex local government issues but these are the same people who worked with other mayors.

Is it not a case of a poor workman who blames his tools?
I think Masunda has survived this long because politically, he is more of a “middle of the road person”, meaning no one from Zanu PF and the MDC formations is ready to critically assess his performance.

Had he been an outright MDC, MDC-T or Zanu PF member, he would have been asked or ordered to resign a long time ago.

Surely, his likeable character and neutrality has served him well.
I also think that Masunda’s failure to address challenges faced by ratepayers also steams from the fact that he has too much in his plate. He chairs several companies’ boards including Zimplats, Old Mutual, Lafarge and one or two regional local government associations.

Surely, with such a load, the Mayor might not find time to deal with issues that affect the ordinary person in Mbare or Highfield. This is where people are dying of typhoid, cholera and drinking water of questionable quality.

When some angry residents picketed at Town House last year demanding that Masunda must resign, I thought they were just mad.

One of them carried a banner which read: “Masunda go, you have failed; We are tired of drinking sewage; corruption is rife and refuse is not being collected.”

Certainly, it is time the Mayor concentrates on what he knows best —law.

As certain as the sun will rise tomorrow, I will get criticism from his legion of supporters.

But I don’t give a damn, for I have said it as it is.

15 Responses to Masunda turns Harare into a village

  1. Tabonga January 20, 2013 at 12:58 pm #

    Clearly, from comments in various media over many months, this guy has failed.
    He probably does well on the boards he chairs but apparently, the mayor role is not his forte.
    Thousands of people can’t be wrong at this rate and it is time someone else takes the reigns. Up till when will we have to put out with him ‘out of his respect for his other accomplishments’? Over 2 million affected residents do not have to put up with this!
    Zimbabweans prided themselves on infrastructure which had relatively withstood the economic mess but with such governance at town house, there will be nothing to speak of not only in Harare but Zimbabwe as a whole.
    Mayor, do the honourable thing and let someone else try to deal with this mess. We have other capable administrators who may be better suited for the role.

  2. taguta padare January 20, 2013 at 1:43 pm #

    Its funny. Honestly what did you expect from these Juice card vendors cum Councillors

  3. memi January 20, 2013 at 3:53 pm #

    Masunda has done great under the very difficult circumstances he has operated. The basic facts are as below;
    1. Residents and rate payers owe City of Harare US$ 360 million. If even half of this is paid, all the city’s problems will be solved. it has to be understood that never in the history of Harare has the Council been owed so much money by it rate payers. Central Government, businesses and ordinary residents are the main culprits. It will be intresting to find out if the author of this article is up to date with his council bill? Masunda has to be applauded for still having a council that at times brings water, collects refuse and is still functional.
    2. Excessive interfernce by Chombo has hurt the city.
    3. Masunda inherited a council redilled with debt and corruption and has made commendable efforts to correct that.
    4. No new supply dam has been built for Harare since 1976 while the population of harare has grown more than 4 times. it is central Government’s role to build supply dams.

    What do you expect Masunda to do under these circumstances. Masunda deserves our congratulations !!!

    • Francis January 20, 2013 at 6:36 pm #

      @memi. Actually your points saves as proof that Masunda is an incompetent leader. the fact of the matter is
      Masunda should put a an efficient revenue collection system and makes sure that all residents pay their rates in time.
      Harare is never in shortage of water because the dams have insufficient water but due to unrepaired pipe likages and failure to procure chemical by the city council.
      Masunda is politically neutral so you cannot blaim political interference

    • Jjames January 21, 2013 at 7:16 am #

      if he didnt have a solution to the problems WHY he campaign for the job??? its totally stupid to say ‘oh..its ok masunda can just lazy around because the problems are historical’ if he cant fix the problems he MUST GO ASAP

  4. Great Zimbabwe January 20, 2013 at 6:47 pm #

    The mayor has failed dismally in executing his duties. I think the main problem of the mayor was failure to prioritize issues and therefore was swarmed by what he saw at town house. I think with limited revenue the mayor was supposed to focus on critical issues first like water and sewer reticulation. Effort was supposed to be directed at increasing the pumping capacity and repair of old worn pipes. Recently an engineer within the city ranks disclosed that a great deal of residents are poaching water. That ought to be rectified. Billing needs to be up date. Once water issues have been addressed, he should have turned his attention to refuse collection. The easiest way of curbing pollution is to invest in refuse bins and these need to be strategically located in high traffic zones like Mbare. Collection of these bins can be done initially by tractors until resources have been secured to acquire appropriate trucks- again we were told that the council bungled in acquiring refuse trucks. The mayor should have then mobilized resources and expertise in addressing the transport sector- innovative means of mobilizing resources through parking fees, vehicle licensing, fines etc should have been pursued and funds put in a ring-fenced fund specifically to address traffic lights, potholes and grass cutting. Having achieved that the mayor should have then looked at basic services delivery in health, education and social welfare. We are aware that the council has a tight budget but it’s not enough for a leader to cry but to offer solutions. Imagine if Moses would have said to hungry Israelites in the wilderness, “I don’t have the capacity nor the means to attend to your needs”. So I join other residents and friends of Harare in calling the mayor to consider leaving the council chambers in an honorable manner, than to wait for eviction. Memories of the miraculous performance of the former executive mayor, Elias Mudzuri are too fresh in our minds that we cannot put up with mediocre performance.

  5. Jjames January 21, 2013 at 7:16 am #

    stupid controls on this website

  6. Rural man January 21, 2013 at 10:58 pm #

    I always thought these ‘cities’ lost their status long back. Even masalala they stopped speaking English with a twang, & they speak proper Shona & Ndebele. I once found out TM Hyper in Bulawayo was selling mostly firewood!!! Add to that the monster called ZINWA that took over water purification & distribution in Harare. I dont read many newspapers but surely that disturbed water management systems??? & the monster didnt & doesnt fall under City Council. The Bulawayo/Harare Highway surely is a national road that falls under Ministry of Transport??? I could be wrong but i heard people are paying tolls through their nose just to rehabilitate that road.

    That is sum of the little information I get kunoku ku village, & from this information I think Masunda is a small boy in the scheme of things?? The economic rot in the country has affected all municipalities. Kunoku ku Gokwe I think roads must be banned, & choppers used instead! At least you have some roads zvenyu!

    I just wonder what you use to go to the toilets, if you still have them! Isvu we use the old fashioned blair toilets! Now dont dare compare your stinking crowded village with ours, because we know where to get our water, we know our toilets.

  7. Rural man January 21, 2013 at 11:13 pm #

    & 1 last thing, please change your culture of throwing rubbish everywhere you Harare people. You must learn something from Bulawayo residents! The council there is useless too, just a bit better, but the residents dont throw marara all over the city! Surely you know your council is struggling, help somehow. Isvu marara we use to make manure!!!

    Amusi kurima here ku Harare?? Hehehe!!! Mwari we nhai! Hanzi urban farming muchiuraya nyika. Makaita village kare.

    ndatenda hangu!!

  8. james January 22, 2013 at 9:06 am #

    well written Caiphas. this Mayor is out of touch with the day to day realities that affect the ordinary Harare ratepayer. Instead of concentrating on fixing up the very important preliminaries like water and roads, what does he prioritise? RELENTLESS POUNCING on vendors ! what a damn shame

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  10. Hombarume January 28, 2013 at 11:38 am #

    Anyone who supports Masunda is not objective, but i wonder the basis of non-objectivity.
    You can not have a mayor who forces old people from the ghetto to pay for non-existant water usage. Then the money paid is used to buy an overprised Dodge $60 000, only a week after he came in the Media showing off his SUVs.
    Last Month about $600 000 was used for purchasing vehicles for new appointees.
    This is utmost leadership failure. But as the rest of MDC have painfully proven to us all who have suffered pushing for change, their point is “they dont care”.
    I think people should Vote MDC for President and MPs. All councillors should come from Zanu or MDC Ncube. Harare was a better city and was developed better by Tawengwa.
    The Masunda error of management is gone with type-writing generation.
    Masunda is mo painful than Mugabe. At least Mugabe gives back by donations.

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