As the Harare water crisis deepens, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and the Combined Harare Residents Association (CHRA) have voiced concern over what they termed interference by authorities for political expedience over prioritising the lives of the people.
MDC Secretary General Chalton Hwende and the party’s Local Government Secretary, Elias Mudzuri today held a crisis meeting with the acting Mayor of Harare and a team of his councillors to appreciate the water crisis in the capital city and deliberate on the decision to shut down water supplies to residents.
The MDC said it was satisfied with the explanation given by the leadership of council that the city had run out of chemicals and could not afford to pump dirty water to the residents without risking a disease outbreak. The acting mayor and councillors also assured the party that they had run around and secured some reprieve for the residents when they accessed some chemicals which are already on site to ensure that water supplies resume immediately, at least for a few days while a permanent solution is being worked out.
The MDC revealed that currently, water treatment has begun at the city’s water works and the precious liquid is expected to start trickling into residents’ homes by end of day today.
“It emerged from the meeting that central government is at the centre of the current water crisis bedevilling the capital city. Government is the biggest debtor to the Harare city council while there has been no movement in the past 20 years in terms of the construction of the Kunzwi dam, which is expected to provide a permanent solution to Harare’s dire water situation. The Kunzwi dam project has been Zanu PF’s campaign issue in every election since 1995 but to date, nothing has been done.
“It also emerged that government has centralised the procurement of water chemicals and every day, council awaits to get the trinkets in terms of water chemicals as and when the scarce foreign currency becomes available at the central bank,” the MDC said in a statement.
The party said the other challenge is that Harare City Council’s 2019 budget was pegged in US dollars and the government‘s decision to ban the use of hard currency had distorted the budgeted pricing system. The move also ensured that the little funds now available in RTGS to council can hardly sustain critical operations such as water supplies, among other key obligations of council.
Available statistics show that so dire is the situation in Harare that council collects $15 million RTGS every month against a projected monthly expenditure of $45 million for water treatment chemicals alone. The $15 million RTGS is inadequate for water treatment chemicals, let alone other key obligations of council.
The MDC said it was happy that the Harare City council is working hard under the circumstances to ensure that residents get water, including ensuring that water bowsers are provided in the communities and that the boreholes in the various wards of the city are working so that at any given moment, there is constant water supply to the residents.
“The MDC hopes that government will play its part in alleviating the crisis bedevilling the capital city by clearing its huge debt owed to council as well as providing a permanent water solution by ensuring that the Kunzwi water project becomes more than an election message that is bandied about ahead of every election.”
CHRA said it has noted with concern an apparent attempt to politicise issues at the Harare City council so that the city would end up in the hands of a Commission.
“Government has failed to provide funds for water provision and as such must be compelled to declare the water situation in Harare a national disaster rather than to seek to get political mileage while the lives of ordinary residents are at risk. If anything, Commissions have proved to be costly for council as millions end up being paid to the commissioners while nothing is done to address the dire situation in Harare,” CHRA said in a statement