via Tackle water problems first: residents demand | The Zimbabwean by Thabani Dube 08.01.14
Harare residents have demanded that local authorities and central government prioritise water supply ahead of any other service.
In interviews with The Zimbabwean, residents were unanimous that water shortages and the threat of a prepaid system should be dealt with first.
“As enshrined in the supreme law of the land, access to clean water is a human right, so it is both local and central government’s responsibility to ensure people have access to clean water,” said Lisa Antony of Greendale.
“It doesn’t make sense for central government to say it is up to local authorities to address the water issue alone with the current state of our infrastructure, which is completely dead.”
Antony said government should lead the investment in infrastructure and put checks and balance in place to revive the water system. She said the prepaid water billing system discussed by Harare city council was tantamount to privatisation of a basic human right.
“The prepaid meters will not address the water problem, but will worsen the situation. Instead government should invest in developing water provision, such as putting in new distribution pipes,” she said.
Ephias Muchonge of Unit L Chitungwiza said residents should be involved in council business and contribute to the selection of council officials. “Most of the problems in council business, especially service delivery, are caused by poor leadership,” he said.
He said while it was also up to residents to pay their bills for services to improve, there were some residents who were too disadvantaged to pay.
“In areas such as Unit L, M, N, O, P and St Mary’s, there are some elderly people who were given two-roomed houses. They are not employed, they are old and they did not extend their houses to have lodgers. Where can we expect them to get the money when they are even failing to put food on the table,” Muchonge said.
He said the water prepaid meter system would be a bottleneck meant to deny the poor access and reserve water for the rich.
“Government should fight corruption in local authorities and shun the politicisation of service delivery if the country is to move forward,” he said.
John Banda of Norton said government should first address the economy for everything else to function.
“As long as industries, mines and factories are downsizing and shutting down, there is nothing to talk about, because these are what enable the government to fulfill its obligation of providing safe water and services.
“The politicians know that they have to deliver, as they promised in their manifestos. There is no political will to deliver and they prefer to engage in corruption. It is a sad and painful truth,” said Banda.
Wide Ruwa Residents’ Association chair Garikayi Musuta said addressing water problems should be the first priority for local authorities.
“Councils should invest in water first, as having good roads, houses and electricity does not mean anything in the absence of water. Water is life and for the rest we can always have plans to make ends meet,” he said.
Harare Residents’ Trust director Precious Shumba said local authorities had failed to come up with policies to address the water crisis.
“Eighty per cent of councillors fail to account to the citizens or organise feedback meetings to keep them abreast of city developments,” she said.
“The issue of corrupt practices among council employees and councillors in the previous council was not addressed, while council failed to repossess Paget, Carter Houses in Mbare where Zanu (PF) youths have total control, making money out of ratepayers’ assets. The same applies to Mupedzanhamo, Mbare Home Industries.
“As 2014 begins, this new council carries the hopes of the nearly 3m residents of Harare.”
Shumba added that the HRT was hoping that the debates in council chambers would be robust, productive and more focused on addressing the social and economic challenges of citizens, particularly in the area of decongesting the central business district, fighting to have arresting powers for the municipal police, a paradigm shift in the council’s handling of street vendors in residential areas and the CBD.