|Water Crisis: Nurses at Masvingo Provincial Hospital queuing for water|
MASVINGO - On April 07, the World Health Day was celebrated but the events that unfolded since March last year overshadowed the celebrations as Covid-19 continues to wreak havoc in the country.
The state of the country’s healthcare system is in clear contrast with this year’s theme, ‘building a fairer, healthier world’.
Hospitals and clinics are in a deplorable state while health workers have locked horns with government over poor working conditions and remuneration. This has seen basic health services being hard to access for much of the population.
Water supply at the province’s referral health centre Masvingo Provincial Hospital, has been erratic and relatives have to bring water for patients while theatre operations have been put on hold.
To cover the gap, City Council, supplies water using bowsers to supplement the borehole water system but this has not been sustainable.
The local authority last year demoted Water Works Supritentant Charles Chapanduka, for gross negligence and his dismissal was also followed by the suspension of Town Engineer Tawanda Gozo almost a year later.
Generally, local authorities in the country offer nothing but poor services to residents and with Covid-19 pandemic, this has worsened the risk to people’s health.
Councils have failed to provide water frequently while refuse collection has become a very rare privilege for much of urban areas.
In what seems to be defensive play, local authorities blame the Covid-19 lockdown and low revenue for their failure to live up to their responsibilities.
The MDC Alliance councillor recalls
Although the recent purge of councillors by the Douglas Mwonzora-led MDC-T left some local authorities crippled, this cannot explain all the service delivery failures by urban local authorities.
In Harare and Chitungwiza, residents have resorted to drilling boreholes at almost every house in areas like Epworth, Zengeza, Tafara and Mabvuku where residents have gone for years without a single drop of the precious liquid on their taps.
For Masvingo, the situation has been getting worse in recent months as the local authority is failing to meet the demands of water and refuse collection in the city.
Former Councillor for Ward 4 in Masvingo Urban, Godfrey Kurauone who was recalled by the Mwonzora faction of the MDC parties, told TellZim News that the problems in council were institutional and that personal grudges often took precedence over service delivery.
“The poor service delivery being experienced in Masvingo is not about Gozo whom they suspended or any other individual. The problem is institutional and has nothing to do with any individual. We have a serious problem of some councillors who are now bringing personal fights into council. Right now we have two groups of councillors, some are inexperienced but are dominating and the other group is of experienced and passive Cllrs,” said Kurauone.
He urged the city fathers to accept that they are at fault and to look for resources which will be used to fund the operations of council before the situation gets out of hand.
“It is time for the local authority to accept that they do not have the resources to improve service delivery. You cannot expect the Engineer to implement the second phase of the water augmentation project or rehabilitation of the roads. Council must find other means to raise the needed resources before it is too late and make them available to the workers for the execution of duties,” said Kura.
Some parts of Mucheke have gone for more than a month without running water and its high density status has left many families facing a major risk of water borne diseases.
Covid-19 ignored in scramble for scarce water
Sanity has been a thing of the past in high density suburbs and the risk of contracting Covid-19 has been ignored as people jostle for water at boreholes, community taps and water bowsers daily.
Although access to water is a basic human right, for Masvingo residents that right is not practicable as they spend hours in queues even during the night.
Some have fought for water at boreholes while some have been reportedly assaulted and robbed on their way to and from boreholes.
The larger part of Victoria Ranch, which is under the grudging jurisdiction of Masvingo Rural District Council (RDC) has largely been receiving no water from Masvingo RDC and Masvingo City Council.
Land barons have been playing hide and seek when it comes to sanity in the area where they have failed to install sewerage and water systems.
This worsens the area’s vulnerability to coronavirus as well as water –borne diseases like cholera and typhoid.
Open defecation and unprotected water sources
Sanity has been shunned, with footpaths emerging are all over bushy areas which have become the primary ablution facilities.
Open defection has become a common feature on alleys in the Central Business District (CBD) since informal traders can no longer use public toilets.
Council is reportedly pumping at a 50 percent capacity and has resolved to ration water and has categorised areas into zones that received water at specified moments, although this too has not been adhered to.
Some residents of Rujeko fetch water in Mucheke River which is heavily polluted largely by sewage from council’s leaky sewerage.
In year 2012, the city council was fined $8 000 by Environmental Management Agency (EMA) for its wanton pollution of the river, whose waters are a big stink.
The council’s ramshackle sewerage discharges raw sewage into the water body which feeds into Lake Mutirikwi, the city’s main source of water.
When asked to give his comments regarding the water crisis, Masvingo Mayor Collen Maboke said council was working tirelessly to find lasting solutions.
“Our state of service delivery is not good these days and the most affected area is water supply. We are pumping at 50 percent after a transformer which fed power to the Bushmead water station got burnt. Right now we are working round the clock to restore some normalcy. Plans are also there for a long term solution to address the water shortages and we will also sink more boreholes.
“We are also engaging ZESA to see how we can restore adequate power supply. As a local authority, we are constrained financially but we are trying to supplement our supply with bowsers and boreholes which we sank in partnership with Christian Care,” said Maboke.
Before the rainy season, council was attributing water shortages to low levels in Lake Mutirikwi and old infrastructure.
After the heavy rains of the previous season which saw the lake almost getting filled up to the brim, city fathers are now attributing the shortages to something else.
However, inside sources claim that the water crisis is not just a result of infrastructure breakdown, but factionalism and sabotage at the town house.
There are claims that some elements are sympathizing with Gozo and are sabotaging Acting Town Clerk Edward Mukaratirwa to end the water crisis.
Mukaratirwa was Gozo’s deputy in the engineering department, but rose to become Gozo’s boss at the local authority after the retirement of Adolf Gusha who was very sympathetic to Gozo.
Masvingo United Residents and Ratepayers Alliance (Murra) Information Officer Godfrey Mtimba implored city fathers to find common ground and solve the crisis which is being currently experienced in the city.
“We are seriously concerned with the issue of factionalism which is reportedly happening at the town house, where we hear they are sabotaging each other and this is affecting the smooth provision of services.
“Council officials should stop politicizing council work and be professional because it is residents who suffer from all that political bickering. They should put their house in order and work in unison. They should work as a team and provide quality service to the residents,” said Mtimba.
On council’s capacity to provide optimum service to help residents survive a possible third wave of coronavirus infections, Mtimba said it might be a mammoth task considering the state of affairs at the council.
“City council is not able to help residents contain any disease outbreak. The state of affairs at the moment is in bad shape and currently people are struggling to get water. If there is an outbreak, council will find it hard to contain the spread of water-borne diseases and it will be catastrophic,” said Mtimba.
With some health experts warning of an imminent third wave of Covid-19, the city is sitting on a health time bomb if the current water crisis is not resolved on time.
Masvingo has effected a 500 percent increase in rates but service continues to decrease although little is being done on the part of council to improve service delivery.
A transformer which feeds power to the Bushmead Water Works station recently got damaged beyond repair and council is reportedly in the process of negotiating with ZESA to speed up the process of installing a new one.
However, it still remains a mystery whether the local authority will improve their services to the ratepayers or it is just wishful thinking on the part of the residents.