Unfortunately the minister was not present to explain the problems being faced in the area and the country.
For instance, residents of Mabvuku and Tafara have gone for years without water and would want not only a convincing explanation but also an apology.
As the heat increases this summer, seasonal streams — from which multitudes of the country’s less privileged who cannot afford to sink boreholes, used to draw water — have since dried up and water, which is supposed to be a necessity, has turned out to be a pricey luxury.
Nkomo is hardly the only troubled man; Harare mayor Muchadeyi Masunda seems to be in the same boat. When he took office in July 2008, one of his most immediate priority was to resolve the water crisis in the capital.
But as the year draws to an end, many areas of Harare still do not have a reliable supply of the precious liquid.
Greater Harare requires 1 200 megalitres of water daily. The Morton Jaffray Water Works has the capacity to generate 614 megalitres per day, while Prince Edward has a capacity to pump 100 megalitres.
With the current shortages of power and water treatment chemicals, the combined output of the two plants is at 600 megalitres, but a significant proportion of the water being treated is being lost through leakages.
Masunda has attributed the water problems to broken pipes saying “the city was losing up to 40% of treated water through leakages”.
Taking the leakages into account, slightly more than a third of the daily water requirement reaches industrial and domestic user
Although Masunda is credited with repairing water pipes in Harare, the challenge his team of councillors now face is to ensure that the old pipes are cleared and the trenches covered and compacted, before the rains begin.
Nkomo is on record as saying Harare’s water problems will persist until government constructs Kunzvi Dam and raises financial resources to repair plant and treatment facilities.
According to a document compiled during the third quarter of the year by Nkomo, the water crisis was a result of years of absence of funding to recapitalise and failure to expand capacity despite evidence that the urban population was growing at what he described as an “alarming state.”
Nkomo said water from Chivero and Manyame dams was either of poor quality or “heavily polluted with sewerage and industrial waste”.
Nkomo added that there was need to provide a new water source for Harare to meet growth in water demand. Loss of skilled manpower has also taken a toll on the authorities’ ability to deal with the crisis, he said.
To end the water woes, Nkomo said Kunzvi Dam should be expeditiously constructed.
While Nkomo highlighted the cholera outbreak last year as exposing the dire water situation in the country, experts warned last week that Zimbabwe could be headed for a fresh cholera outbreak ahead of the rain season because government has not dealt with structural causes of the epidemic.
A United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs report says government has not addressed broken down, “anachronistic” water and sanitation infrastructure characterised by burst sewer systems and water pipes that often result in sewerage contaminating water before it reaches households.
This, according to the report is what contributed to last year’s cholera outbreak, which claimed the lives of over 4 000 Zimbabweans.
The report said: “As the next rainy season approaches, there are, however, fears of another cholera outbreak because the structural causes of the current epidemic have not been fully addressed.The challenge of limited safe water and frequent water cuts that force people to resort to unsafe sources including shallow wells, ponds and dams among others, has not been addressed.”
Experts estimate that six million people have limited or no access to safe water in the country.
In areas that are fortunate enough to have water, the precious liquid is not clean. Government has also highlighted the shortage of water treatment chemicals as a serious concern.
At the official opening of Parliament on October 6, President Robert Mugabe shifted the blame onto middlemen, whom he accused of pushing costs up.
“Reliance on middlemen in the procurement of water treatment chemicals has been a major cost driver in the provision of water. To obviate this challenge, government will centralise the procurement of water treatment chemicals.”
In supporting this view, Masunda said: “When it comes to the bulk procurement of anything, let us put our heads together. This will help us speak with one voice… Service delivery has nothing to do with politics. We need to all do an appraisal and rationalise these things.”
Neither Mugabe nor Masunda named the middlemen involved in the procurement of water treatment chemicals. But in a recent address to journalists, Nkomo said the middlemen were connected to influential government officials.
“By the time a chemical reaches Harare or Bulawayo (from where it is bought in South Africa), its price will be 10 times higher. There are too many middlemen in between. These are people who have become very rich through selling water treatment chemicals,” Nkomo said.