Source: Water crisis: Humanitarian situation unfolding | The Herald July 13, 2019
Residents, consumer and human rights organisations have accused local authorities of violating the Constitution by failing to supply residents with water, a basic human right.
They felt it was important that local authorities consider the lives of people first and not only react when disease outbreaks and deaths occur.
There is pressure to declare the situation a state of disaster to arrest possible dangers in light of shortages that have been exacerbated by this year’s drought.
Ironically, the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa) has indicated that despite dwindling resources, some areas have up to 30 months’ supply of water from their main sources.
This has exposed local authorities’ failure to deliver one of their core mandates, leading to worries about violating human rights.
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) spokesperson Kumbirai Mafunda said failure to provide water was a violation of the right guaranteed by Section 77 of the Constitution.
“Local authorities must bear in mind that the shortage of water is likely to lead to poor sanitation facilities and result in the outbreak of some water-borne diseases such as cholera and typhoid, which are medieval diseases.
“Local and central Government must always cater for the poor and indigent in terms of provision of clean and potable water as required by the Constitution.
“We urge local and central Government to take measures to achieve the progressive realisation of this fundamental right to water.
“As ZLHR, we will hold local and central Government accountable for any consequences arising from failure to provide water to residents,” he said.
Consumer Council of Zimbabwe (ccz) executive director Ms Rosemary Siyachitema said water was a human right and it was important that consumers have access to clean water.
She expressed concern that residents were continuing to pay for water that was not available.
“This is a crisis. We once experienced cholera outbreaks due to the unavailability of water. Water should be a priority area. People in urban areas should have access to clean water. It is disturbing that authorities start to act after disease outbreaks when the situation could have been avoided. We do not react when people are getting water from unprotected sources.
“Unclean water puts pressure on health systems,” she said.
Harare Residents Trust director, Mr Precious Shumba said according to Section 77 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, every citizen had a right to food and water.
“Water constitutes life. When a local authority has a constitutional mandate to provide a service, the State has equal obligating to enable local authorities to discharge its duties and mandate.
“Government through the Ministry of Local Government National Housing and Public Works should provide fundamental financial and material resources to allow local authorities to carry out their mandate,” he said.
Mr Shumba said local authorities, particularly City of Harare, should prioritise the issue of water supply to residents.
“Water funds must be used for water instead of being channeled elsewhere. We feel the City of Harare has excluded major stakeholders in an inclusive discussion on the state of affairs so they come up with solutions. There must be inclusivity.
“We have qualified people at the council and this is not reflecting. The experts within the council should reflect there is technical expertise, accountability, and capacity,” he said.
He expressed concern that authorities were talking about Kunzvi Dam but there were no short term alternatives.
Gweru Residents and Ratepayers Association president Mr Cornelius Selipiwe said the situation in Gweru was complicated as the council informed them they had run out of water.
“We fear disease outbreaks and will write a letter to the health department as people have started digging wells. This may lead to diarrhoea outbreaks. It is just a matter of time as some of the wells are unprotected,” he said.
Kadoma Residents Association president Mr Wikirosi Mutizira said the council was just incapacitated to provide water and residents would soon stage a peaceful demonstration.
“Councillors and management have no people at heart they are splashing money on laptops and luxurious cars at the expense of service delivery.
“We gave them a chance but nothing is materialising, there are just attending workshops one after another they are simply sabotaging the new Government,” he said.
Chitungwiza Residents Trust director Ms Alice Kuvheya said the municipality was supposed to inform the public on how they have been using funds.
“At the moment the current water situation has seriously worsened since there is no water. Corrupt activities should be investigated and offenders brought to book.
“We also need an update on the Muda Dam projects,” she said.
Community Water Alliance director Mr Hardlife Mudzingwa said the situation was a national disaster considering that it was putting lives of people on risk of deadly diseases.
He said the national water crisis was a result of economic hardships, pollution, lack of trust in local authorities and drought.
“We should have a framework that ensures the council recoup the costs. Harare is also offloading raw sewer into Marimba River that feeds into Lake Chivero and this has polluted the major source of water.
“Transparency and accountability in the revenue management is also another challenge. Instead of residents getting explanations they get excuse from authorities and they lose confidence in the institution. This has affected revenue collection.
“There should be fiscal commitment into water projects such as the Muda Dam in Seke and Kunzvi Dam. Kunzvi Dam should have been constructed as early as 1992. We should invest on water infrastructure,” he said.