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ZINWA, leave Bulawayo alone!
Janet Mudzviti, Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development (ZIMCODD)
Extracted from Breakfree Newsletter: January, 2007
February 02, 2007

Two Ministries, namely the Ministry of Water Resources an Infrastructure Development and the one called Local Government, Public Works and Urban development, have confirmed that the government will go ahead with plans to privatise water and sewer reticulation system from towns and cities through the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (ZINWA), with the next target being Bulawayo. In Harare this has already been effected without bringing any good news. Burst sewer pipes have become the order of the day with Harare residents literally living with raw human waste in their courtyards and on the streets. As for the potential heath risk involved, no one in the government seems to care. Dr Ignatius Chombo, the Minister of Local Government had the audacity to publicly justify the mess on national television alluding to the fact that it was one of the hand-over take over challenges that ZINWA was facing.

Maybe someone needs to be reminded here, that this problem is not anything new or peculiar to a handover-takeover process. The question then is can we trust ZINWA to solve this problem? Does ZINWA have the capacity to save the situation from the illfunctioning commission in the case of Harare? From what we see, ZINWA has simply failed, it was never meant to succeed anyway. For this reason Bulawayo residents have already said No to ZINWA! Bulawayo has been experiencing perennial water shortages owing to the low rains in the region and the growing population, which has seen the demand of the commodity outgrowing the supply. One wonders whether ZINWA is going to start off the Zambezi-Matabeleland water project (which is believed to be the ultimate solution to the water crisis) or they believe in cloud seeding as the solution!

Currently the development of alternative sources has failed purportedly due to Ďlack of fundsí, or is it lack of political will from the relevant stakeholders? One wonders how ZINWA is going to deal with the water shortages in Bulawayo. The last time residents heard about ZINWA interventions was when they leased some boreholes at the Nyamandlovu aquifer to improve the Councilís water supplies. Are boreholes the solution to this dry regionís water problems? If ZINWA dreams of solving the water problems and its dream can only go as far as drilling boreholes, surely they have not started dreaming or they simply donít dream at all. Bulawayo residents need supplies of water and sewer reticulation systems that can simply match the growing population.

Who really benefits from this ZINWA adventure to nowhere? Or is this one of the cash cows of some corrupt leaders meant to milk the poor residents dry? One way of looking at it is to assess how this initiative is going to incapacitate the Council. The Council is going to lose about 40% revenue from water billing to ZINWA yet there is no guarantee that ZINWA will deliver. All we know from experience with these institutions is that there will always be excuses for failure. One of the excuses predicted is "there is no foreign currency to import the required equipment and other chemicals."

The point is Bulawayo does not need ZINWA; neither do all other towns and cities. ZINWA does not have any success story in its folder. What we need are capacitated local authorities with autonomy from political interference. The solution to water and sewer reticulation problems in the cities is simply to avail resources to cope with the increased demand of those services. No to ZINWA! Stop privatizing essential services.

*Janet Mudzviti is the Program Officer for ZIMCODDís Southern Region

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