Covid-19 war: Water must be free

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TO get a glass of drinking water in Harare, I had to pump out of my pocket US$4 080. On top of this, the Harare City Council charged me $750 for the permit to have access to a glass of clean, natural drinking water in my home.

Of course I went all this far because water is a necessity for human existence. A study showed that across Africa, citizens have “easier access to cellphones than they do to clean water”.

Last year when I visited Mutoko to assess the need for boreholes, I was received with a gourd of free cool water, even though they fetch it from afar.

In fact, serving water to a visitor is a symbol of hospitality in Mutoko. It’s the first thing the hostess offers you. Water is life. We are told, 60 percent of the human body is water.

A biologist, HH Mitchell says the brain and the heart are 73 percent and 83 percent water, respectively. So lack of clean water affects our major organs of the body. Water sustains life.

In most cities, running water and electricity mark the difference between urban and rural life styles. But in order to get a glass of clean water in Borrowdale, Harare, here is what I paid: US$80 (finding fees), US$1 500 [drilling], US$1 600 [pump installation] and US$900 [Tank/reservoir]. Then I paid $750 to the city council for making clean water accessible to myself.

A city without running water is a breeding and brewing place for diseases like cholera, diarrhoea, typhoid and dysentery and such. Covid-19’s demand for frequent hand wash had to come even to Harare where water is a rare and expensive commodity and the council charges a heavy fee for having access to clean water, which the council itself has failed to supply.

In high density areas some women travel three kilometres to queue up for water, obtainable at sparsely located boreholes. I wonder what is cheaper to transport water from the Zambezi, via a canal to Harare, or to spend over US$144 million of borrowed money to recycle sewer water?

Also, since Harare is home for 16 percent of the nation’s population, is it not prudent to rely just on the Manyame catchment, nor should the council count on boreholes that can run dry any time.

At the time of writing, over 12 000 boreholes are reported dry. All the intelligent law makers surely are aware of the mighty Zambezi north of us. The Zambezi River, fourth largest in Africa, dumps into the Indian Ocean, some 94 billion cubic meters of almost pure water per year. Why has it taken the Zimbabwe successive governments over 100 years to “divert water from the Zambezi” to both Bulawayo and Harare? The National Matabeleland Zambezi Water Project, which requires only US$800 million, would solve the nation’s water problem significantly, while ensuring the urban population of healthy living conditions.

For a nation that can misplace US$15 billion, and not miss it, US$800 million is change.
A nation that has survived scandals over US$76 billion from 1986 to 2019, surely, it can easily finance the project. Zimbabwe has the money, but it lacks the vision.

It looks like the Harare City Council, which mainly comprises the MDC, a party that was formed to improve city living conditions, including the infrastructure and social reforms, has gotten to the end of its wits. There is little or no determination to bring about real change, instead there is the ambience of acquiescence.

Over 20 years of trying to change Zimbabwe’s government leadership has not seen the light of day. Actually, the council blames Zanu PF for its deficiencies, while the government blames the council for the dilapidated infrastructure. This renders both parties incapable of responsible management and good governance. In the mean time, it’s the council which collects city parking, street cleaning and various rates.

In addition to all this, the council has the nerve to charge $750 to any citizen who drills a borehole in order to access free, clean water which is underground, instead of giving a tax incentive to all those who contribute clean water.

What claim does the council have over clean water that does not need any chemical treatment before it can be consumed? What cost does the council incur when I drill a borehole on my property? If this is not subtle daylight robbery, I do not know what robbery is.

l Gwinyai Muzorewa in the president of UANC party

While Covid-19 is robbing lives, the council is robbing residents’ money. Both robbers should be stopped. Only new, caring and visionary government leadership will bring substantial changes to Zimbabwe. It is government’s function to provide services to the nation. Government is best that governs less – a free market economy.

My suggestion to the council is that [a]. they insist on testing the suitability of this underground borehole water, rather than taxing those who seek to mitigate and even solve the council’s inadequacies; [b] they incentivise citizens who contribute to clean, city water; [c] they modernise and sanitise the vendors market place, thus providing a better alternative. Responsible and conscientious city fathers and mothers must care about the citizens’ health and welfare. During this pandemic, the council has done nothing. When the situation requires sacrifice, it is better for the city fathers and mothers to go without, than for the children to suffer die. The saying is true: things of ultimate value to life are free: air, earth, heat and water, and of course freedom.

Gwinyai Muzorewa in the president of UANC party

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