Water: A precious, scarce commodity in Chitungwiza

HARARE - Residents of Chitungwiza might have survived the cholera outbreak but there is no time to rest, as many now sleep in queues waiting patiently to get water from the few boreholes that still spew the precious liquid.

Now that it is winter time, shallow wells, that had been a fall-back for many, have dried up and without water sources of their own, Chitungwiza residents live on the goodwill of the City of Harare, which unfortunately is overwhelmed by demand from a population boom triggered by rapid urbanisation.

An assurance by Harare mayor Muchadeyi Masunda, that the capital will never cut water supplies to its bustling dormitory town brings little joy for residents in Chitungwiza who receive water at most once a week.

Thus, for this town of over a million people, the clock is ruthlessly being turned back to the 2008 dark days when a cholera outbreak killed at least 4 000 people and affected thousands more.

For people like Emily Mazvombe who lives in Chitungwiza’s Zengeza 2 suburb, it is not the cholera outbreak though that is depressing but the sad reality of fetching water even in the wee hours when sleep is sweetest.

“There is no water here and every day you have to queue at the few remaining boreholes in order to get water.

“Sometimes we wake up at 3am in order to get water and the authorities seem not to care,” said Mazvombe.
Another resident blasted the current crop of councillors, who were expelled from the Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai-led MDC, for failing to prioritise service delivery.

“Our councillors are non-existent and they have done nothing since they were elected in 2008 other than stealing.

“We hope this time around credible people will be elected to positions of authority,” said Martha Moyo.

Collin Gwiyo the sitting MP for Zengeza East failed to get nomination in the ongoing MDC primary elections and residents say he was visible.

“Our MPs should explain what he did with the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) because the boreholes we have were drilled by Unicef.

The MP should come clean and tell us how he used the money,” said another resident Gerald Chari.

Efforts to speak to Gwiyo were fruitless as he was not picking up his cell phone.

After the cholera outbreak of 2008 and 2009, Unicef drilled boreholes in most high density suburbs around the country, while water harvesters were also put in place to collect water during the rainy season.
But its winter and there is no rainfall to collect, while the Unicef-drilled boreholes cannot match demand resulting in residents queuing for long hours to fetch water, a basic commodity.

The fate of MPs in Chitungwiza is entwined with the water crisis and service delivery.

Of the five sitting MPs only one Alexio Musundire, survived the MDC primary elections with the rest, who include former mayor Misheck Shoko and government minister Fedelis Mhashu, having been floored.

Philemon Chipiyo, who is the mayor of the sprawling town, says the council is at its wits end as it neither has the money to settle its debt with Harare nor a dam to provide is plus one million residents with water.

“We have applied to the government to get Prince Edward Dam but the government too has not been forthcoming.”

Rivulets of sewage are for the residents of Chitungwiza stark reminders of the gloomy days of 2008.

Even Chipiyo is concerned by the threat of cholera but is just as confused as the residents on the solution to the perennial water woes that now forces people to sleep in borehole water queues in order to get the number one household sought commodity.

“The threat of cholera is real because we do not have water. But there is nothing we can do about it because we do not have the means to deal with the issue,” said Chipiyo.

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