“WITHOUT a US dollar you cannot get water from the borehole,” bellows a strapping youth as he orders residents to fork out scarce cash to access the precious liquid for domestic use amid chaotic scenes.
The site is a borehole in Zengeza 4, Chitungwiza, where residents are grappling with incessant water shortages. There, scores of unemployed youths are taking advantage of desperate residents, who have gone for years without constant municipal water supplies, by forcing them to purchase water from boreholes drilled by donors such as the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef).
For those who fail to pay, the alternative is spending as much as four hours in a long-winding, disorderly queues.
Due to the prolonged water crisis, impatient residents are left with no choice but to fork out their hard-earned cash to jump the queue because they cannot afford to waste hours queuing instead of fending for their families.
Those able to walk long distances are able to access water for free at a council tap code-named “head office” in Zengeza 1.
Privileged residents have managed to drill boreholes at their homes, while others hire youths to fetch water from the public boreholes.
Tendekai Mugovera, a Zengeza 4 vendor whose business earns her a profit of US$5 per day, is forced to part with some of her meagre earnings to get water.
“We haven’t had running water for many years; water only trickes once a week on Wednesdays,” said Mugovera. “We depend on boreholes, which are servicing too many households. This has forced some residents to resort to fetching water from unsafe wells, raising the spectre of disease outbreak.
“These youths demand money from poor residents, charging R1 per 20-litre bucket. These youths control the boreholes the whole day and deal ruthlessly with elderly people who, on most occasions, don’t have the money to pay.
Because of non-stop usage, the boreholes are frequently breaking down and increasingly becoming dilapidated.
With a 60-year-old water infrastructure, Harare is only managing to produce 450 mega-litres per day from Prince Edward and Morton Jaffray waterworks, against a daily demand of 900 mega-litres. Of the 450 mega-litres produced, at least 100 mega-litres are lost through leaks.
Due to the current high temperatures, the daily water requirement in Harare has jumped from 900 mega-litres per day to between 1 200 and 1 500 mega-litres.
China’s EximBank has loaned Harare US$144 million and seconded 19 Chinese engineers to renovate Morton Jaffray Waterworks in a bid to boost water supplies.
But the water crisis in Harare is set to worsen before it improves, as five pumps at Morton Jaffray were decommissioned last week to facilitate refurbishment. The city council, after decommissioning the pumps, warned long-suffering residents they should brace for even more erratic water supplies for the next three years as the refurbishment continues.
Glen Norah, Budiriro, GlenView, Msasa Park, Mandara, Greendale and Waterfalls, among others, will continue to suffer such a fate.
Julian Moyo of Mandara said: “We have to use a truck to fetch water from neighbouring areas. Most residents have resorted to drilling boreholes so the water table is being depleted. Now you have to dig deeper to get to the water table.
“We want Water minister (Saviour) Kasukuwere to address water challenges in towns and cities. It’s ok to deal with the poaching syndicates, but they should not forget to solve the serious water challenges.”
In Bulawayo, the water situation has been a major challenge for the past decade.
Kasukuwere recently ordered the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa) to pump water from Mtshabezi Dam 24 hours daily to meet the city’s 17 mega-litres daily demand.
But Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association co-ordinator Rodrick Fayayo said the effect of Kasukuwere’s intervention was still to be realised since residents were still enduring the usual 72-hour water cuts.
According to dam levels statistics, Bulawayo’s water woes will continue as two of the main supply dams — Inyankuni (3,96% full) and Upper Ncema (2,1%) — were recently decommissioned. The Mtshabezi-Umzingwane pipelink is seen as a short-term solution to Bulawayo’s perennial water problems while the long-awaited Matabeleland Zambezi Water Project is deemed the lasting solution.
The water problem is a worsening national crisis which needs urgent solutions to avert disasters like the 2008 cholera outbreak which killed over 4 000 people.