The disclosures come at a time when Unicef, which helped contain the deadly cholera outbreak that hit the country between 2008 and 2009, terminated its contract to supply water treatment chemicals to 20 urban councils on April 1.
About 26 out of 31 local authorities cannot afford water treatment chemicals. Sources said Chinhoyi municipality, for example, collects about US$40 000 per month, of which 60% goes to salaries. It requires US$20 000 for water treatment. The situation, if not addressed, could reach crisis levels similar to those in 2008 when cholera killed more than 3 000 people countrywide.
Deputy Minister of Local Government, Rural and Urban Development Sesel Zvidzai confirmed recently a number of local authorities were facing a water treatment crisis due to lack of adequate funding.
“I carried out an exercise to check how the local authorities will be able to manage the situation and I completed it last week. The exercise covered a sample of 10 local authorities that include Chegutu, Bindura, Chinhoyi, Kadoma, Chiredzi, Mutare as well as Harare and indications are that they cannot afford water treatment,” he said.
Zvidzai said the local authorities were owed a lot of money by ratepayers, while government facing financial problems. “We are going to make some recommendations and liaise with the Ministry of Water and Ministry of Finance to work together on coming up with options to handle the situation before it reaches crisis levels. Since a lot of the local authorities still have at least a two months supply of water treatment chemicals, we have enough time to come up with a plan,” said Zvidzai.
“The 10 samples we carried out are a very good representative sample. We have about 30 local authorities and I can confidently say that what was revealed by the samples represents what is happening in other local authorities.”