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Civilisation takes step back in Harare

Grace Kombora

WHEN modern technology designed to make life easy fails due to human incompetence, civilisation takes a step backwards.

f”>Some Harare residents are daily putting up with the inconvenience of having to do without water to bath or electricity to heat their water and cook food, Their lifestyles have reverted to primitive mode.

And the reason?

Harare council officials and the sole electricity utility company, Zesa, are failing to provide the basic services due to a combination of gross ineptitude and lack of planning.

“We are tired of waking up in the dead of the night to search for water,” complains Maria Munetsi of Glen Norah who came to Harare four years ago anticipating a promising life in the city but is now witnessing little difference from her life in Mutoko.

Waking up around 4am in order to search for water has become monotonous for her. She has to wake up so early in order to get water from one of the unprotected wells in the area.

What worries Munetsi most is the toilet, which now produces an unpleasant smell owing to the length of time since it was last flushed.

Residents in Glen Norah have gone for two solid years without consistent and reliable water supplies

With the water shortages persisting, the residents have resorted to relieving themselves in the bush, something they have been forced into to counter problems posed by the collapse of waterborne toilets.

“We have no option but to use the nearby bush. The city council should build Blair toilets,” Munetsi said.

Munetsi fears for disease outbreaks in the area as the living conditions continue to deteriorate.

“I fear that my children risk contracting cholera and other waterborne diseases,” she said

Munetsi has to search for firewood to cook, as power outages are now a norm in the area.

“Firewood is now expensive and one has no option but to buy,” Munetsi said.

Munetsi’s story is characteristic of Harare residents whether they live in the working class or high-income residential suburbs.

Bathing and washing of nappies is no longer as systematic as before for the residents as water has become a scarce commodity.

Scenes of desperate mothers doing their laundry along the Mukuvisi river conjure up memories of rural life. The river, carrying industrial effluent, is during the day clogged with mothers doing their laundry.

Mandara, Greendale, Mabelreign, Highlands and Borrowdale are the worst-affected low-density suburbs because they are located on higher ground which reduces pumping.

Residents from the low-density residential areas never used to experience such difficulties as most of them have boreholes. But the boreholes now cannot function without electricity or diesel.

“Its amazing that both water and electricity had become a problem in the city yet they are necessities,” said Moses Dodzo from Mandara.

Mandara residents had been struggling since the beginning of September. At times they have gone for three consecutive days without water.

Some residents say Harare is a disaster waiting to happen as millions of people fumble desperately for reliable service from an obsolete water reticulation system that needs an extensive overhaul and repair. Above all it needs competent maintenance.

Repairs to the Morton Jaffrey works, the major pumping station in Harare, are still underway.

“The whole debacle is really appalling,” a Marlborough resident who preferred to be called Mrs Don bemoaned. She said council officials are reluctant to do their job whilst ratepayers continue suffering.

“People who caused problems remain mum while city’s ratepayers go for weeks and in some cases months without water,” Don said.

She said for six months she had no water and the city authorities have been promising to come and repair her system ever since.

What matters to her most are the water tariffs she pays every month whilst the water system is down.

“It never used to be like this in the low density areas and this really shows that the water situation has reached crisis level,” Don said.

Recently Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa) board chairman Willie Muringani said the water crisis was going to persist. He was clueless when the problem was going to be solved.

The Combined Harare Residents Association chairperson, Mike Davies, said there is a need for a democratically elected council in place, which has the residents’ interests at heart.

“We need a democratically elected council which has residents at heart,” Davies said.

Davies said the solution to the crisis was the construction of Kunzvi Dam, which had been on the drawing board for almost a decade.

“The construction of Kunzvi Dam will ease the problem,” Davies said.

For years government has been promising to start on the multi-million dollar Kunzwi dam but has done little to get the project on stream.

Water Resources minister, Munacho Mutezo, promised that construction would start before mid-year but there is little to show for it at present.

With Operation Garikai in progress there would be more strain on the system which is currently unable to cope.

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