HARARE’S water and sewerage reticulation system is fast crumbling as the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa) fails to turn around the deteri
orating situation across the country.
A survey by the Zimbabwe Independent showed that the capital’s infrastructure is in a free-fall characterised by unavailability of water and raw sewage flowing in the streets posing a threat of disease outbreaks in overcrowded townships.
Where water was available, much of it was being lost through burst pipes, which residents said had gone for months without Zinwa repairing them.
Critics say Zinwa’s mounting problems mirror Zimbabwe’s long-running political and economic crisis.
Swarms of flies and mosquitoes hover over raw effluent which has become a common sight in most high density areas.
The excuse from Zinwa is the national shortage of fuel and the ageing piping system which they claim needs a complete overhaul.
The Independent news crew discovered that it was only a question of time before an outbreak of disease hits Tafara-Mabvuku as residents have resorted to drinking water from underground streams in the suburbs. The streams’ mains sources of water have been sewer flows and water from burst pipes.
“This is our third month without water in the whole of Tafara and Mabvuku areas,” residents association chairman Joseph Rose said.
“Residents have dug wells along these streams to get water for their daily use. Our fears are that there could be an outbreak of diseases as raw sewage from burst pipes often flow into these streams.”
Residents fetching water from an unprotected well along one of the streams shouted that “government must provide water because we can’t continue getting water from the rivers as if we are in rural areas”.
A 100-metre long queue was seen at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in Tafara as residents waited to get water from the church borehole.
Almost all suburbs in the capital have reported water shortages since Zinwa took over the supply of bulk water last year.
Rose said residents were increasingly getting agitated by the fact that despite Zinwa’s failure to provide services, it was increasing rates.
This week Combined Harare Residents Association (CHRA) reiterated its call since last year for the reversal of a cabinet decision empowering Zinwa to take over sewer and water services from local authorities.
“There is ample evidence that Zinwa cannot manage water affairs in Zimbabwe and that it is hopelessly incompetent,” CHRA said. “The association continues to reject the takeover of sewer and water services because no substantive benefits have accrued to local authorities in Zimbabwe since Zinwa came on board,” CHRA said. “Persistent bickering between the City of Harare and Zinwa over accountability to residents in cases of quality of water, leakages, inadequate supplies and billing have put residents in an unnecessary dilemma.”
CHRA said the absence of a memorandum of understanding between the City of Harare and Zinwa is disastrous and is a corrupt business arrangement, which should be rejected.
“Residents cannot be coerced to pay unreasonable, unjustified and unlawful water rates coming from a water body that is unaccountable to them but to the government,” CHRA said.
Zinwa has been increasing charges at alarming rates with residents in most parts of Harare receiving bills ranging from $5 million to $40 million over the past two months.
The association said Zinwa’s increases in service charges of over 1 600% since September 2007 are unjustified considering that there is no visible improvement in water supply and administration.
Residents and business continue to be plagued by water cuts as Zinwa fails to meet the daily consumption of Harare.
Raw sewage continues to find its way into water bodies in the City of Harare, pushing up water treatment costs which are passed on to the residents. Further, some chemicals are not being procured, a situation which poses serious health threat to residents.
“An uprising by the residents of Harare is imminent if the current scenario is not addressed,” CHRA said. “We demand that the City of Harare take full ownership of the capital’s water supply and administration before Zinwa triggers a residents’ uprising over water bills.”
CHRA blamed excessive interference by politicians in the running of local authorities.
Since Zinwa’s takeover of water distribution and sewerage reticulation, even government arms such as the Comptroller and Auditor General, Mildred Chisi, warned that the authority had no capacity to provide clean water without disruptions.
The audit, which was presented to the Public Accounts Parliamentary Portfolio Committee last year, said that Zinwa was failing to provide undisrupted water supply and water of the right quality to its customers in small towns, growth points and institutions because of lack of an operational plan, failure to maintain plant and equipment and poor record keeping.