The water crisis is a health crisis. As we face the COVID-19 pandemic, now more than ever access to safe water is critical to the health of families around the world. Since last week Masvingo urban residents and rate payers are struggling to access the quantity and quality of water they need for drinking, cooking, bathing, hand washing, and for industrial use. Section 77 of Zimbabwe’s Constitution states that “every person has a right to safe, clean and potable water and the State must take reasonable legislative and other measures, within the limits of the resources available to it, to achieve the progressive realization of this right.
The Masvingo city council (MCC) highlighted that the problem was worsened by the breakdown of the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA) transformer, that feeds to Bush Mead Water Works. Before the breakdown of the transformer the MCC was already struggling to supply enough water to the city. The council had to introduce a water rationing schedule early this year. Despite the rationing timetable residents were complaining of water shortages, as many were not receiving water even on their stipulated date. Water demand is estimated at 45 megalitres per day (ML/Day) against a capacity of 30ML/day leaving a deficit of 15 megalitres/day even in a normal situation at water works. In February 2021 the city council suspended its town engineer for incompetence resulting in perennial water calamity. Despite the suspension of the engineer the problem is becoming worse than ever as the city goes for weeks without a single drop. As MCC put the blame on the delay of ZESA to replace the transformer, ZESA is blaming council employees at the Bush Mead for incompetence and lack skills to pump water with the current electricity, which they’re supplying them with, on another hand MCC is citing low voltage. The technical war between city council and ZESA is now exposing thousands of people to diseases.
In Masvingo residents are no longer enjoying their right to water, the whole town is dry even at Mushagashe Water Works a few meters from town where residents managed to get water from the reserved tanks they are all empty now. Residents are mostly dependent on drilled boreholes. These water sources are sometimes unclean due to poor sanitation. Yesterday in Sisk suburb a 15 year old girl fainted after spending long hours in water queues. Some are going to school tired as they at times queue up to the early hours of the morning and others fail to attend. Without water, the chances of them attending school and learning productively are compromised. The water and sanitation crisis places thousands of residents at risk of contracting waterborne diseases. Residents have often resorted to drinking water from shallow, unprotected wells that are contaminated. The crisis has brought about issues of extortion, exploitation, abuse of women at water points among other social problems.
Masvingo Residents Forum (MRF) urged the city council and ZESA to conceal their matters and work together to fix the electricity issue in time as the life of residents and ratepayers is at risk. MRF is also urging the MCC to quicken the water augmentation project to curb the water crisis, as the population and water demand is growing daily. MRF structures and members are giving a Masvingo City council and ZESA southern region four (4)-day ultimatum to fix the problem. Failing to fix the problem residents will go to do their laundry at civic centre and series of non-violent methods day and night to show our anger.
Source: Masvingo Residents Trust