By Edgar Gweshe
The water situation in Mabvuku’s Ward 19 is unimaginable- to say the least.
Freddy Mukundi (24) is a Ward 19 resident who has never witnessed water coming out from the tap since his birth in 1996.
Yes. Nearly 1 000 households of Mabvuku’s Ward 19 last received tap water in 1992 and since then, they have had to largely rely on unprotected wells, boreholes and other unprotected sources of water.
“For many of us, we have lost hope of getting tape water. It has been nearly three decades now since I was born and we have not had council water even on a single day. Our taps are worn out with rust and it seems like we are beginning to normalize the abnormal.
“It is by the grace of God that we are surviving because the boreholes in our ward cannot cater to the whole population and sometimes we are forced to resort to unprotected sources of water. For us, we classify residents who complain of going for days without water as people in the comfort zone,” said Mukundi.
Quite often, it is women and the girl child who has to bear the brunt of the erratic water situation in Mabvuku.
Cases of sexual abuse/harassment, rape, physical abuse as well as teenage pregnancies have become common as the girls and women often have to walk during the night in search of the precious liquid.
“As women, we are mostly at the receiving end of this water crisis. I would actually say that most of our rights are being violated as a direct result of this water crisis in Mabvuku.
“Cases of sexual assault and rape are being reported and in some cases, there are also domestic violence cases when women are assaulted by their husbands for coming home late after going to fetch water,” said Vanessa Chouriri.
What was making the situation worse for the Mabvuku residents is that the council was charging them for water consumption (based on estimates) and in 2017, the local authority unleashed debt collectors on ‘defaulting residents’.
It was after the interference of the Combined Harare Residents Association the charges were scrapped.
Ward 19 Councilor, Munyaradzi Kufahakutizwe is agreed that charges for water consumption for the affected households must be scrapped.
In light of the dire situation in Mabvuku, which has placed thousands of lives at risk, residents under the banner of Cleveland Action Alliance, a community-based organization working to protect wetlands in the area, have written to the Mayor of Harare, Herbert Gomba, requesting water bowsers but their concerns are yet to be addressed.
CAA Chairperson, Jimmy Mahachi said the request for the boreholes was moved by the fact that boreholes in the area have been overwhelmed by demand and a number of residents were being forced to resort to unprotected water sources.
“We have gone for nearly three decades without water and the situation is worsening such that we are being forced to resort to unprotected sources for water. We implore the Mayor of Harare to treat our request for water bowsers as an urgent one and we will continue knocking until our requests are addressed,’ said Mahachi.
Section 77 of the Zimbabwean constitution guarantees the right to clean, safe and portable water.
Wetlands destruction has been identified as one of the major reasons behind water shortages in Harare.
The Zimbabwe National Water Authority (ZINWA) has raised the red flag that the water table in Harare has drastically gone down due to the destruction of the wetlands which are the second source of water for Harare after runoff.
Wetlands are under threat mainly from construction and urban agriculture in Harare.
Besides water provision, the wetlands also serve as natural purifiers of water but this has also been largely undermined by pollution.
According to the Harare Wetlands Trust (HWT), preservation and restoration of wetlands are a critical step in addressing the water situation in Harare.
Government has also come under fire for giving meager amounts to the City of Harare for procurement of water chemicals while at the same time failing to invest in dam construction at a time the main water source for Harare, Lake Chivero is failing to meet demand.
In the 2020 national budget, the government allocated $259 Million for the construction of the Kunzvi Dam which has largely been touted as the solution to the water crisis in Harare.
However, the Combined Harare Residents Association contends that the $259 Million allocations are a drop in the ocean adding that “dam construction requires huge capital injection”.