Daniel Nemukuyu Senior Court Reporter—
Chitungwiza residents have taken the council to the Constitutional Court in a bid to obtain documents explaining why water supplies are erratic as a prelude to a possible second court action over the local authority’s failure to provide uninterrupted potable water. Residents say they get water supplies once a week,
although the council claims it is providing water at least three times a week.
Council said the main reason why water supplies were limited was the failure by residents to pay their bills. As a result, council was unable to pay Harare City Council for the water. Some residents of Chitungwiza use water from unprotected sources such as wells and contaminated rivers like the Hunyani in St Mary’s.
Others get water from boreholes drilled by the Seventh-Day Adventist Church during its two-week Revelation of Hope Crusade and Health Expo held in May this year. The Trustees for Chitungwiza Residents and Ratepayers Association want council to furnish them with documented reasons why it is failing to provide uninterrupted water supplies to residents.
Council has so far refused to produce the documents, the court papers say. The residents want the Constitutional Court to declare the refusal by council to avail such documents unconstitutional. The residents also want to be furnished with the annual budget and audited statements for the local authority from February 2009 to December 2014.
Since Chitungwiza Municipality gets water from Harare, the residents want to see the agreements relating to water between the two local authorities. They also want a statement of approved plans for the provision of potable water. Chitungwiza Municipality and its town clerk Mr George Makunde are listed as respondents in the Constitutional Court application filed by the Legal Resources Centre recently.
In the application, residents described failure by council to provide safe, clean and potable water as unconstitutional. They first want to get the relevant information before pouncing on the municipality over violation of that right (access to clean potable water). “While prima facie, it appears that the first respondent (council) is in breach of the right to provide clean and potable water, a final conclusion can only be arrived at after the information which is sought in the present proceedings has been provided,” reads to application.
The residents stated in their papers that fetching water from unprotected sources was a violation of the right to human dignity. “Human dignity in persons entail that they should have clean, safe and potable water resources available to them. “Obtaining water from unclean sources, which in some instances are contaminated by the over-flow of raw sewages, inherently impairs the right to human dignity.
“The same conduct also degrades the integrity of a person and amounts to degrading treatment. It therefore prima facie violates Section 53 of the Constitution,” reads the application. Queuing for water at the few available boreholes, claims the residents, promotes child prostitution in Chitungwiza. “Young girls abandon the safety of their homes and spend hours at night in the queues at the limited boreholes.
“Social vices including sexual relationships have been recorded as occurring as a result of exposing such young girls to the fetching of water at these limited points. “It has been difficult to stem this practice as families from which such girls come require this essential commodity for sustenance,” read the papers.
Chitungwiza Municipality’s lawyer Mr Rodgers Matsikidze of Matsikidze and Mucheche law firm has filed a notice of opposition defending council. Mr Makunde deposed an opposing affidavit, which forms the basis of the opposition to the constitutional challenge. He said the applicant (Trustees for the time being of the Chitungwiza Residents and Ratepayers Association) was a not a legal person at law and that it was non-existent.
Mr Makunde said Chitungwiza buys water from Harare City Council and that it was in arrears. He said residents owed Chitungwiza more than the figure owed to Harare Municipality. Mr Makunde said the residents must first pay their debts to enable Chitungwiza to get enough water from Harare.
“Currently the first respondent (Chitungwiza) owes City of Harare over $4 million while the residents owe the first respondent in excess of $35 million as at July 31 2015.Thus Chitungwiza is receiving limited water supply from City of Harare. “In as much as the applicant is complaining about the erratic water supply, it needs to be pointed out that for the commodity to be made available all times, the residents must pay,” he said.
Mr Makunde denied ever violating the residents’ rights. “In the circumstances, it is also stated that the respondents deny any of the alleged human rights violations and maintains that the issue of water challenges currently facing Chitungwiza are as a result of many challenges, chief among them being financial constraints mostly perpetuated by the residents by failing to honour their obligations in paying rates to the first respondent,” he said.
Mr Makunde said Harare City Council recently increased daily water supplies to Chitungwiza from 11 to 27 megalitres, which improved the water situation as most areas were now getting water three days a week. He said Chitungwiza required 62 megalitres daily.