Harare Mayor Mafume applauds the government’s intervention to provide clean water amid a cholera outbreak.

– At least 50% of the debts for water in Harare are owed by various government departments; we wish they could settle these debts first, Mayor Jacob Mafume complained.

John Cassim

Harare Mayor Jacob Mafume shake hands with Minister Anxious Masuka during a high profiled technical committee meeting on provision of water in Harare

Harare, Zimbabwe – Mayor of Harare, the Zimbabwean capital, Jacob Mafume, who was voted on an opposition party ticket, has applauded the government for its intervention to help provide clean water, as cholera wreacks havoc.

He said this earlier this week, as he gave a vote of thanks during a high-profile meeting with a technical committee mandated to help Harare provide clean water since October last year.

“The Deputy Minister of Finance, David Mnangagwa, made it very clear that millions of dollars will be coming to the City of Harare every month, and that kind of effort is really commendable.

We commit ourselves in our various portfolios to harmoniously working together towards the common goal of providing clean water that is usable to ensure that we save lives,” Jacob Mafume said.

In the same meeting, the Minister of Lands, Agriculture, and Water, Dr. Anxious Masuka, revealed that the government provided US$1.2 million (a month’s worth of water treatment chemicals) through the committee.

“This helped the City of Harare to ring fence at least 45% of its revenue to the water account; this has enabled an improvement in the generation of water, although for three weeks they couldn’t produce water owing to the raw sewer that flowed at the Prince Edward water treatment plant,” Dr. Masuka said.

The technical committee meeting was also attended by Health Minister Dr. Douglas Mombeshora, Charles Tawengwa, Minister of the Harare Metropolitan, Deputy Minister of Finance David Mnangagwa, Deputy Minister of Lands, Agriculture, and Water, Vangelis Haritatos, as well as Mayors from Ruwa, Norton, and Chitungwiza.

The 100-day mandate for the technical committee led by the University of Zimbabwe Civil Engineering lecturer Professor Hodson Makurira also ended on the same day, and a report was tabled citing the irregular provision of water treatment chemicals as the main reason the City of Harare was unable to provide adequate water.

“We have a few challenges, just like any other assignment. They have to do with chemicals, which was the main cause of the crisis that we are in, and the supply has not been as consistent as you would want it to be.

Partly, it is also because of the disbursements to clear the legacy that exists, as the City of Harare has accrued debts in terms of chemical supply for quite some time, and they would want to see all those payments settled at once, but we struck an agreement to settle on instalments,” Professor Makurira explained.

Professor Makurira added, “We have also had natural challenges as the water works at Prince Edward were decommissioned for a few weeks as the upstream dams were dry, which also reduced water availability. We treated less and distributed less.”

Harare has been unable to provide adequate water since 1995, and with the increased human population over the past few years, the demand has more than doubled and crippled the city’s capacity to provide enough water.

From time to time, City of Harare officials have been complaining of the non-availability of water treatment chemicals, hence the water crisis in the city once dubbed the’sunshine city.’

However, owing to a cholera outbreak early last year, in October, President Emmerson Mnangagwa, through Dr. Masuka, appointed a technical committee whose role was to provide technical support to the city and help provide clean and adequate water.

Harare City has the capacity to pump up to 1200 megaliters of water per day, but this slumped to 200 and slowly increased to 300 megaliters today.

The 19-member committee was then tasked with helping the city increase water provision to 520 megaliters per day, but that mark has yet to be reached.

Nonpayment of rates by residents owing to what is now being deemed a protest for failure on the part of the city to provide services was also discussed.

Harare has more than 400 000 consumers, yet only 200 000 are connected.

“We discussed this at great length to see if we have to speed up smart pre-paid water metering and the aspects of ensuring that residents pay fairly for what they use. That discussion will continue, and the technical team will be able to proffer various solutions on how to increase the efficiencies of collection and which money must be ring-fenced in the water account,” Dr. Masuka said.

Meanwhile, in an exclusive interview with ConserveZim, Mayor Mafume said he appreciated the intervention by the central government.

“What they are paying us through these interventions is not even enough to settle what they owe us as government’s water debts.

I can safely say that at least 50% of the debts for water in Harare are owed by various government departments; we wish they could settle these debts first and see whether, as a city, we will fail to provide enough clean water,” Jacob Mafume remonstrated.

The technical committee had its term of reference extended by another 100 days.

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