GWERU was recently left in awe after Mkoba 1 police detained three women; Itai Chirapata (41), Panashe Chademana (18) and Mirriam Arumanzi (20) for seeking water at the police station.
CommuTalk caught up with the three who said the experience was not only trumatising to them but families and surrounding community as well.
“It was an experience that I never want to think about considering how it affected not only me but my family as well. I am under medication but I was even denied a chance to take them for a crime whose charge I was never told. Skipping the medication made me suffer from a serious headache and vertigo,” narrated one of the victims, Chirapata.
The sad development come at a time Gweru’s water situation is not getting any better following council’s announcement that its water alternative water source, Amapongogwe dam is drying up.
Council had switched to drawing water from the alternative source following a near dire water situation after their main water supply, Gwenoro dam had dried up.
The police station is no saint either as it was placed in the top ten Gweru’s biggest debtors who owe the City of Gweru last year with an unpaid ZWD427k unpaid balance.
To date, Mkoba 1, the area from which these women reside has gone for more than 20 days without water for which when the water comes is only available for not more than 24 hours.
Besides drying up dams, council has continuously communicated infrastructure breakdown as another challenge leading to unavailability of water.
“We were taken by surprise as one cop just instructed us to follow him and upon reaching the charge office we were told we had been arrested for stealing water. We were shocked!” added a youthful Chademana who was also a victim.
“I even fell and injured my knee while being diverted back to the charge office but the police officer was not even sympathetic. His one instruction was we had stolen water and should pay a fine for the supposed crime,” further narrated the other victim, Arumanzi.
The women were not only exposed to ill-treatment but hunger as they were denied food and water during the 12 hours of detention.
Contacted for comment, Midlands Provincial police spokesperson Assistant Inspector Joel Goko avoided the ‘detention’ question opting however to say Mkoba 1 residents were their neighbors and should ask for water before drawing the precious liquid without permission.
“I have been staying at the camp for long and we treat these neighbors as our neighbors. When they want water, they should ask first. How would you feel when your neighbor comes to draw water from your home at night without your permission,” Goko said.
Women from the surrounding community who went to plead with the police for the three’s release say police threatened to shoot them if they do not leave the camp.
“Knowing the water challenge, I went with other women from around to plead with the police but they could take none of our words. One other threatened to shoot us if we had not left the camp. I could not help it but cry as I tried to come to terms on how seeking water would be criminalised knowing we had been getting water from the camp for long.
“Seeing tears on my cheeks, an officer told me he was not moved and won’t sympathise with women for the reason that his mother had since passed on and had no reason to act otherwise towards pleasing the female counterpart,” said Thandiwe Ncube (63) who was part of the women who tried to plead with the police.
Women Coalition Of Zimbabwe (WCOZ) Gweru Chapter chairperson Alice Maqata says they will not rest until justice prevails.
“It is sad that these women were deprived of their rights considering that one suffers from severe headaches while the other is a nursing woman. Such treatment is uncalled for! Even if we say they had a case to answer, they still had a case to answer; police had to still respect their rights.
“The water situation is dire and we have been engaging council though in return they never follow the given schedule. The situation becomes a challenge especially to women considering our gender roles so we will not rest until we champion the social ills that affect us,” Maqata said.
The three were later released without a charge. Gweru Residents and Ratepayers Association (GRRA) was also quick to notify human rights groups and lawyers on the matter resultantly giving the women assistance.
Water rationing remains a challenge in many Zimbabwean cities amid the fact that it is a constitutional given right.
The right of access to sufficient water is accorded to everyone in Secion 27(1)(b) of the Constitution, which states that everyone has the right to have access to sufficient water. Section 27(2) requires the State to take reasonable legislative and other measures, within its available resources, to achieve the progressive realisation of the right.