‘WATER water everywhere, not a drop to drink”’, goes a classic line from a Samuel Taylor Coleridge poem, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.
Candid Comment with Stewart Chabwinja
In it a sailor laments thirst plaguing his ship and crew despite the ship being surrounded by an endless expanse of sea water, which of course is unsuitable for drinking as it only leads to further dehydration.
There are parallels between the sailors’ predicament and that of Zimbabweans, especially urbanites.
There is much water in Harare for instance, but little for drinking: most is flowing profusely on the streets courtesy of increasing pipe bursts as the city’s infrastructure further crumbles, while taps are dry.
And things will get worse before improving. Only last Saturday Harare Mayor Muchadeyi Masunda told residents they are likely to start enjoying clean and improved water supplies come March, after the city procures pressure reducing valves to minimise water losses.
Come Wednesday, Masunda had changed tack –– the city would soon introduce water rationing to solve its water problems as it continues to refurbish its water equipment –– a protracted exercise that has failed to yield any tangible relief for long-suffering residents.
The glaring failure by MDC-T councils, which control most city councils, to deliver service-wise is a serious indictment of their leadership, and hence their party. Granted, they inherited crumbling infrastructure after years of Zanu PF mismanagement and lack of investment, but the public is bound to hold them accountable to their promise and motto of “change” which won many hearts.
While funding remains a major hurdle it does not suffice as an excuse since the councils have received infrastructure rehabilitation assistance from various organisations.
The councils are collecting rates from residents, but their priorities remain woefully lopsided, with salaries at one stage reportedly gobbling up 90% of monthly revenue in Harare.
As water woes worsen, rubbish remains uncollected, roads are potholed, street lighting is virtually non-existent and sewerage flows from burst pipes threatening potable water, councillors who took office as humble workers are now living large. The stench of their corruption and nepotism –– a throwback to preceding Zanu PF controlled councils –– has soiled the MDC-T brand, making a mockery of the party’s “change that you can trust” slogan.
Of course the MDC-T has tackled corruption resulting in suspensions and firings of councillors, but the criticism is that only the small fish were targeted while bigwigs go scot free.
The Masvingo debacle, where about 50 council vehicles will go under the hammer next week over US$3,5 million in outstanding salaries, is a damaging reflection of MDC-T management.
With elections expected later this year, the day of reckoning may not be far off for the MDC-T that could face a backlash from fed-up ratepayers. The chickens could come home to roost because change remains what residents and voters long for, but not change for the worse.