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Candid Comment

Government has outlived its usefulness

By Teldah Mawarire

THE trend with a good number of newspapers is that the more frequently an event occurs, the less likely it is to be newsworthy. The assumpti

on is that with repetition comes the risk of “reader fatigue”.

A friend e-mailed me this week to say she has had water in Chisipite for one day in November. Yes, one day of water in a whole month, and Zinwa dutifully sent her a bill with a “due date” unashamedly printed in bright red.

This sort of story is no stranger to my “inbox” and no longer alarming. It’s happening to all of us but is sadly moving off the headlines of most of our local and even international media. It’s sort of becoming the boring “repeat” show that the broadcaster just won’t pull off air for whatever reason, or the distantly nagging sore tooth that just won’t ease off naturally.

What concerns me however is that as citizens when faced with abnormalities, we all fit into two general stereotypes: those that let their creative juices flow and find ways to attempt to beat the abnormal and those that just get by each day with the unusual as if all is well, either without looking for alternatives or after such innovative alternatives have been exhausted.

Last week, I visited our neighbours across the Limpopo — certainly not my first or last visit. Being conditioned to life here, things appeared “abnormal” there. I’m not talking of your “Sandtons” and “Rosebanks”. Soweto has its own fair share of problems but is largely well catered for in terms of basic utilities. The taps do not just go dry for days on end without prior warning, neither do streams of raw sewage flow freely in between homes.

What annoys me is that the Zanu PF government is fighting tooth and nail to maintain a grip on the reins of power when it has failed the most basic test of governance — provision of basic utilities.

The United Nations Committee on Economic, Cultural and Social Rights in 2002 agreed on the “general comment” that: “Water is fundamental for life and health. The right to water is indispensable for leading a healthy life in human dignity. It is a pre-requisite to the realisation of all other human rights.”

The World Health Organisation website says the “general comment” in this case is an interpretation of the provisions of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Zimbabwe is one of the 145 countries that ratified this Covenant and is “compelled to ensure that everyone has access to safe and secure drinking water”.

Zimbabwe commemorated World Human Rights Day on Monday. Sad that water provision was nowhere near the placards of those who were part of the procession.

If you cannot have a safe and reliable water supply, you have been stripped of human dignity. Water provision, especially to urban dwellers that have no alternative, is a basic human right.

President Mugabe delivered his State of the Nation Address last week to Parliament. While the relevance of this statement is debatable, it can give useful insight into at least what the highest office is planning for the year ahead and what it makes of its achievements in the past year — if there are any. Mugabe’s solution to “persistent” water problems is (don’t hold your breadth) to “drill boreholes in the affected places”!

Something is seriously wrong here. How can one expect those riled by the absence of water in our taps for months on end to be pacified by boreholes? This is not very far off from madness. Having taken over one of the best water reticulation systems in Africa in 1980, someone is working overtime to reverse us.

Mugabe’s explanation as to why we have no reliable water service is that Zinwa is experiencing “teething” problems. It appears it’s becoming harder for anyone to defend Zinwa’s glaring ineptitude and bungling. Zinwa is still restless on a nation-wide crusade in search of more water authorities to dispossess. Why is Zinwa being allowed to continuously bite what it cannot chew? A baby that cannot get past the “teething” stage is cause for serious concern for any mother.

Enter Zesa. The plug is pulled for weeks on end on many citizens without regard to schools, hospitals or any such institutions. Is there any thought that goes into these load-shedding schedules?

There is no shortage of long press releases of explanations. First it was cable thieves, and then came old equipment, then sub-economic rates (that seem immune to adjustment). Now it’s lightning and rain! Please. People just need power in their homes.

Hotels are spending three days and even more without electricity or water. Worse still, there is no feasible solution in sight. Is darkness now some sort of tourist attraction?

Any government that can no longer provide its citizens with basic utilities — power and water — has certainly outlived its usefulness.

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