GWERU: Driving through the streets of Mkoba, Gweru’s biggest high-density suburb, one will see kids full of energy and life as they run up and down the street.
A rude awakening of what the infants will face when they get home is when the eye meets teenagers, women and a small fraction of men pushing wheelbarrows full of water containers while women carry buckets on their heads.
There will be no water for the young ones to wash off their dirt when they get home, a brunt that parents or guardians sustain.
Water has remained Mkoba’s biggest challenge for years, and there is no hope either as the council is currently at war with residents for demanding a ZWD10-00 for fetching water from donated boreholes.
“Does water from a borehole need treatment? Why are we being made to pay,” asked one middle-aged, Chenai Majoni as she took us through what was troubling Mkoba residents on the requested fees by the council.
Donated by Welt Hunger Life, residents still question if donor aid is for sale.
“If they had pitched the solar boreholes from council coffers, we would say maybe they want to retain the profit for productivity. How can we be made to pay for donated facilities when on the other hand they have failed to deliver water to our homesteads for which we pay exorbitant fees every month,” Majoni further said.
Through the fund, Mkoba received seven boreholes and through a December council resolution and these have been turned into water kiosks.
Besides Mkoba; Senga, Mambo and Ascot also benefited and are also complaining over the development as they are not spared from the effects.
One Takunda Manjokota of Senga has since dragged the council to court over the matter though he has since communicated disgruntlement after the court dismissed his matter as ‘not urgent.’
Taking advantage of donated boreholes ‘…to establish their long-failed idea of establishing commercial boreholes’ is what residents are also deeming unfair.
City of Gweru Deputy Mayor who is also a councillor for Ward 6, Cleopas Shiri however justified the move.
“Council is now in charge of the boreholes and for ZWD10-00 one gets a 20-litre bucket. The money is meant to pay employees manning the facilities as well as servicing the boreholes,” Shiri said.
Welt Hunger however says it is up to the community to decide how they want to manage and maintain donated facilities.
“After project completion, we train a committee on operations and maintenance then hand over the project to community through council. The community manages the scheme and decide how much they contribute towards the maintenance of those schemes because they are the users,” said Welt Hunger Project Head Odrie Ziro.
Research carried out by CommuTalk however shows that residents are already paying an averagely of ZWD1000-00 per month amid receiving water for less than 15 hours per week.
A Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute (MDPI) research also established that a normal household in Zimbabwe needs at least 500 litres of water per day which would, in turn, cost ZWD25 or USD2-00 (using interbank exchange rate) per day to access water from the boreholes.
The challenge is added to the fact that most family breadwinners in the area are vendors, making it more difficult for them to meet the growing cost of survival after the council introduced the borehole levy.
The emerging challenge is affecting approximately 50 000 families.
Gweru Residents and Ratepayers Association (GRAA) director, Cornelia Selipiwe said making residents pay for donated boreholes was not fair.
“Locals are already burdened and are suffering due to this crisis. ZWD 10-00 may sound like a little sum of money but how many buckets does one need per day for access to clean water?
“It is sad because those without money end up fetching water from unclean sources,” Selipiwe said.
Water woes have been ongoing in the City surprisingly, has council excuses whenever residents demand provision to the precious liquid.
Their statements either reads, ‘We have not resumed pumping since yesterday due to power outage caused by an underground cable fault as advised by ZEDTC’ or, ‘Today we are pumping following the water rationing schedule provided there are no interruptions on both ends of supply and demand.’
Residents often complain on social media platforms that the statements have no difference as they always go for days without water.
Of late, the City Fathers were caught unaware following a realization by residents that they were lying through statements that there was a power cut at the pump station while they had been cut off by ZEDTC over a ZWD247 million debt.
The sad development saw residents going for at least a week without water.
Cooperates have also in the past tried to assist in ending the city’s water woes as Unki is on record of having donated needed water pumps to ease water shortages.
Despite efforts from the cooperate world, some women from Mkoba were in 2020 detained for fetching water at a police camp, as a sign that water was still a challenge in one of Gweru’s oldest and still developing suburbs.
The Constitution of Zimbabwe however clearly states in Section 77 that ‘…everyone has the right to clean water and a healthy environment,’ and through emerging developments in Gweru, residents are being denied such rights.
Fears are that history might repeat itself when Gweru was once hit with a typhoid outbreak in September 2018.
The outbreak was linked to lack of access to clean water and recorded eight fatalities while approximate 2000 others were affected.