By SIBONGINKOSI MAPHOSA
THE Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa) has come under fire for seizing Gwanda Town Council’s vehicles following a dispute over a $17 million debt for water suppliers.
Zinwa seized council’s fire tenders, trucks and ambulances, which it wants to be auctioned to recover the money, but this has drawn the ire of activists in Matabeleland South.
The activists argued that the impasse between the local authority and Zinwa was caused by the government’s failure to devolve power as stipulated in the new constitution.
Gwanda and Zinwa have been fighting for control of water supply sources in the mining town for close to three decades.
Bekezela Mduma Fuzwayo, the Gwanda Residents Association secetary-general, said residents were bearing the brunt of the tussle between the local authority and Zinwa.
“We cannot continue to be taken for granted by service providers who prioritise their own agendas at the expense of the welfare of the thousands of residents in our town,” Fuzwayo said.
“Why is the Gwanda council not running its own water source?
“The Gwanda Residents Association notes with utter disgust the recent move by Zinwa to impound council’s service vehicles including fire tenders and ambulances.”
He said the lives of thousands of residents in the Matabeleland South capital were under threat due to lack of running water.
Fuzwayo added: “How many lives are being lost because Zinwa has grounded all Gwanda council ambulances?
“How many women are losing babies because they cannot afford to hire private transport once they get into labour? It’s food for thought.”
Nkosikhona Dibiti, a social commentator, said the dispute between Zinwa and council demonstrated the importance of devolution.
Dibiti said a centralised government system disadvantages residents because council was on the verge of losing property it bought using taxpayers’ money.
“Gwanda Town Council’s issue with Zinwa is a reflection that devolution is an integral component of development,” he said.
“Auctioning of Gwanda Town Council vehicles bought by Gwanda residents who are ratepayers is unfortunate because it’s more about limitations of a centralised government system.”
“This is a message to residents of Gwanda that government is not concerned about the welfare of its people. The attached cars are for service delivery.”
President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government has been accused of dragging its feet in implementing provisions of the new constitution, including devolution of power.