Dadirai Chisaka (75) looks dejected after enduring several years without receiving even a drop of water from the tap at her three-roomed house in Chikangwe suburb in Karoi farming town, 200km north-west of the capital, Harare.
BY NHAU MANGIRAZI
Chisaka joined several thousands of women to commemorate World Water Day on March 22, but for her and many others here, there was little to celebrate as they have not had access to the precious resource in years.
As a vegetable vendor battling to raise $150 monthly for rates, electricity, water and food for her five grandchildren left behind by her late three children, the lack of water has become a heavy burden to bear.
Chisaka told NewsDay that the Zimbabwe National Water Authority, (Zinwa) officials removed the water meter at her home five years ago, after she failed to offset an $80 outstanding bill that has since ballooned to $800.
She was left with no option, but to rely on water from unprotected sources at a nearby wasteland.
“Our bill is accumulating as Zinwa charges sewer and fixed charges of $12 monthly without us getting their commodity,’ she said.
Thousands of people across the country are fighting a losing battle with Zinwa over fixed water charges and poor service delivery.
Karoi councillor Kudakwashe Chigumo told NewsDay that he was disturbed by the “cold war” between Zinwa and water consumers.
“This is a violation of our rights. Some residents have gone for several years without water, but Zinwa slaps fixed charges to pay for non-existent services, said a furious Chigumo.
Provide water meters
Karoi Residents Trust director Travo Chiwanga accuses Zinwa for failing to provide the meters to consumers, so that they would only pay for the water they use.
“For them to remove water meters that they did not provide is illegal. Our service providers do not have basic infrastructure. Disconnection of water is a basic human right violation,” Chiwanga said.
But Zinwa corporate communications and marketing manager Marjorie Munyonga denied the claims and said their hands were clean and their actions above board.
“Water meters are a property of Zinwa. We are embarking on a vigorous revenue collection exercise not only in Karoi, but in all areas where we supply water,” she said.
“The programme is meant to recover money as Zinwa is owed over $3 million in Karoi. This revenue collection process may entail the disconnection of supplies for defaulting clients.”
Many local authorities buy raw water from Zinwa that is being owed of total $112, 809. 784 as at February 28, 2018, according to Munyonga, who explained that the biggest debtors were local authorities and irrigators who owed $36, 377, 393 and $30, 845, 637 respectively.
She said domestic clients accounted for $16 117 562, while mines owed the authority $5 579 549, adding that the authority was working on rectifying fixed charges on non-functional accounts.
But Chigumo believes residents deserve a better deal not vandalism of their water meters by Zinwa.
No clean and potable water
According to Harare Residents Trust (HRT) director Precious Shumba where city council provides water, the government should uphold citizen rights to water and shelter.
“These are basic rights, which would cause death if they are not availed to citizens. Local authorities tasked with responsibility of providing clean potable water have dismally failed to do so in their areas of jurisdiction,” Shumba said.
“Where they have failed to provide water, it has been sadly noted that the local authorities and the government have not provided the required back up to ensure that rights of water are not compromised. This has to be progressively realised.”
Munyonga said Zinwa was trying its best to ensure people had access to clean water.
“The authority has embarked on major rehabilitations of reticulation systems and pumping plants targeting areas where clients were not getting enough water,” she said.
Shumba, however, urged the government to make it mandatory for all local authorities to “safeguard water revenues against abuse but upgrading, maintaining and expanding water infrastructure for the citizens”.
But for Chisaka and thousands of women like her, it remains a curse to celebrate World Water Day annually when the precious commodity is not available to them.
Key water facts
According to the United Nations globally, there are over 663 million people living without a safe water supply close to home, many millions spend countless hours queuing and walking to distant sources. Forced to drink dirty water, they contract disease;
Unsafe water and poor sanitation causes around 842 000 deaths each year and 62% live below the poverty line in Zimbabwe.