via Chegutu rot: No water for 8yrs, staff unpaid 16/03/2014 by Tinotenda Mutsvanga NewZimbabwe
AMBUYA Joyce Mariga, 64, painstakingly pushes her battered wheelbarrow she has just loaded with six tins of water, along a dusty, partly tarmacked road that leads to her home.
Heavy drips of sweat trickle down her wrinkled face as she narrates how she has to endure what has turned out a daily ordeal in the small farming town of Chegutu, where perennial water shortages are the order of the day, with elderly residents the worst affected.
“We are now used to this kind of lifestyle – every day. What puzzles me is that the town has been receiving adequate rainfall but it’s only our residential area that has no tapped water yet we pay monthly water charges to council,” she said.
Such testimony is one of many that are echoed by other less fortunate residents in Chegutu’s Pfupajena high-density suburb were residents have not been receiving any running water supplies at their homes for the past eight years.
Residents pay an average of $10 monthly for water and other related charges but say they have no option but to pay since they dread the council’s debt collectors and municipal police who are notorious for confiscating assets of defaulters.
“This is really unfair. The council bills us and they say we receive water yet there hasn’t been any. We have tried to raise our concerns with the authorities but nothing has materialised. If we don’t pay up, the council employs debt collectors and scores of residents have lost their assets,” said Roselyn Sakala.
According to the Chegutu Residents Association (CRA) head Misheck Kazembe, there are about 400 households in Wards 8 and 9 – which translate to about $4,000 that is collected from the residents monthly.
“There are about 400 households in Ward 8 and Ward 9 and they are all paying a monthly water charge of $10, yet they are not receiving any water. This is actually robbery and we are now in the process of mobilising residents to resist paying the bills,” said Kazembe.
So critical is the water situation that women and children spend much of their prime time at the two worn-out boreholes in the two Wards.
It has emerged that the council management has been awarding itself huge salaries and other benefits while services continue to deteriorate.
According to a salary schedule that was shown to this reporter, the Town Clerk takes home an average of $8000 per month including allowances. Together with his top management, they also receive brand new vehicles annually which they can buy at cheaper prices after every three years.
Despite all this, the council still owes workers millions of dollars in outstanding salaries
“The council owes us salaries dating back to 2013 and we don’t know when we are going to get our outstanding salaries,” he said.
Efforts to get a comment from the Town Clerk, Alexio Mandigo were fruitless since he was always said to be busy and ignored phone calls.
When reached for comment, Local Government Minister Ignatius Chombo said he was not aware of the problems.
“I haven’t heard about the issue but will look into the issue soon,” he said.
Last year, the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) tried to finance the replacement of the worn out pipes but the project was shelved after some Zanu PF members demanded that all prospective employees should have a letter requesting employment written by a Chief.
In 2008, the town was also hit hard by a cholera outbreak that killed about 1,000 people and residents are still anxious over a possible return of the deadly bacterial infection.