Learners from schools in Gwanda were sent back home on Monday morning as authorities feared a health crisis after water supplies were cut off in the mining town owing to a payment dispute between the local authority and the Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company (ZETDC).
Gwanda and Beitbridge Municipalities owe the power utility a combined $260 million in unpaid electricity bills resulting in ZETDC cutting off power supplies which has affected the pumping of water since Thursday last week.
In an interview with Gwanda Hospital acting medical superintendent, Dr Blessing Gwarimbo who is also the District Medical Officer, said as the ministry of health, guided by Covid-19 protocols, recommend the closure of schools.
“Following Covid-19 regulations if there is no water supply or lack of it, we recommend big institutions such as schools to close or scale down their operations as we fear for the spread of the pandemic and outbreaks of waterborne diseases,” said Dr Gwarimbo.
Matabeleland South Provincial Education Director, Lifias Masukume said when it comes to health-related cases they stand guided by the set rules.
“We are still consulting but all health-related issues, we follow recommendations from the ministry of health. I am therefore confident that what is happening is being done above board,” said the PED.
In a statement, Saturday, the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (ZINWA) said water supplies for both towns had been disrupted due to power disconnections.
“The Zimbabwe National Water Authority wishes to advise its valued stakeholders in Gwanda and Beitbridge that water supplies to the two towns have been disrupted after power to the water treatment plants was disconnected on account of an outstanding amount owed to the Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company,” reads part of the statement.
“ZINWA owes ZETDC a combined $14 million in respect of Gwanda and Beitbridge Water Treatment Plants. The current situation has arisen after Gwanda and Beitbridge failed to service their debts to ZINWA for water supplied,” the statement said.
Gwanda owes ZINWA $140 million while Beitbridge owes $120 million a situation that has made it extremely difficult for ZINWA to deliver service to the two towns.
Engagements and consultations between ZINWA, the two local authorities and ZETDC remain ongoing as the parties seek a solution to the water situation.
Source: Centre for Innovation and Technology