By Helen Kadirire
Harare’s dire water crisis has led to the emergence of unscrupulous merchants who are making a killing off selling the precious liquid to desperate residents in the capital’s poor townships.
This comes as water levels at the country’s major dams have receded to precarious levels with Zimbabwe’s largest dam, Kariba, said to be at just 9 percent of its capacity.
Zimbabwe’s overall dams are at 42 percent of their capacity.
In Harare, the water situation is so dire that the city has introduced water rationing amid revelations that it is left with four months’ supply of the precious liquid.
Unemployed youths have capitalised on the water woes in stricken townships such as Mabvuku where they “hoard” water at boreholes for resale to desperate residents at $1 per 20 litre container.
They bulldoze their way in the long and winding queues of residents fetching water and fill their containers before slapping a charge on the desperate people who fail to gain access to the boreholes. So brisk is their business that residents said the youths were running huge stocks of water at their homes.
One Mabvuku resident, Elina Gutu told the Daily News that there is a gang of young men that always arrive at the borehole with cartloads of empty containers only to skip the long queues.
“Vakomana ava havatombomire muline vanongosvika voti ‘ndini ndiripamberi’. Vanogona kuita three hours vachingochera mvura isu takangomira. Kana uchitoda kuchererwa mvura vanoti bhadhara iwe unenge usina mari (These young men do not wait in the queue but simply impose themselves at the front and can spend up to three hours fetching water while people wait. If you approach them they demand that you pay a fee,” Gutu told the Daily News.
Another resident Phanuel Mbiri said area D and old Mabvuku can go for two months without any municipal tap water.
“The boreholes have become easy prey for these ‘waterprenuers’ so women and children now go to places such as churches, pre-schools and private colleges to fetch water.
“At some places, the boreholes use solar pumps so if it is cloudy, access to water becomes even more difficult,” said Mbiri.
Mabvuku councillor Munyaradzi Kufahakutizwi said waterpreneurs have taken advantage of the desperation of people to advance their own selfish needs.
“We will be having a meeting with the district officer to come up with a solution to the ‘waterpreneur’ problems.
“What I had earlier suggested was that an individual only fetches a maximum of four containers so that everyone accesses the water,” said Kufahakutizwi.
“Mabvuku and Tafara have always had water problems particularly areas that are on higher ground.
“When we last received municipal tap water it was after two months and that puts a strain on boreholes,” he said.
With Harare requiring a total of 800 megalitres a day to meet its full demand, the city is currently only able to pump 450 megalitres, prompting authorities to introduce water rations.
The water rationing measures come as the Harare City Council (HCC) is owed $513 million in unpaid rates and water bills by cash-strapped consumers, including businesses.
HCC announced at the beginning of October that the council had introduced water rationing because of the precarious supply from Lake Chivero Dam.
Acting water director Hosea Chisango said according to the latest water rationing schedule, Mabvuku gets water at least three times a week.
“The bowsers that we have should afford at least 20 litres to every individual in order for all the residents to benefit. Areas on higher ground may experience problems due to gradient,” he said. Daily News