IT was quite ironic that the inaugural issue of WASH: Water, Sanitation & Hygiene Connector Newsletter was released on January 31 when the whole of Greater Harare had gone dry following a statement issued by Harare City Council through its acting corporate communications manager, Mr. Michael
The statement read in part: “The City of Harare wishes to advise all residents of Greater Harare that there will be a complete shutdown on Morton Jaffray Treatment Plant from Friday 29 January at 1400hrs to Monday February 1, 2016 at 0900 hrs. This means that there will be no water supply in the whole of Harare, Norton, Ruwa, Epworth and Chitungwiza.
“The city will also be carrying out other routine maintenance works. This is part of the ongoing Water and Sanitation Infrastructure Rehabilitation programme meant to improve reliability of water supply. Council, therefore, appeals to residents to use the available water sparingly,” said Mr Chideme.
For some residents, that the water taps could run dry for days on end (Friday evening to Tuesday afternoon) was a non-event, because Harare water is not only a scarce commodity for them, but it is also very costly.
However, for first timers like this writer and people in the neighbourhood, these were the most painful four days, because the suburb rarely experiences water cuts, and householders have always appreciated this one major service delivery by Harare City Council. Never mind the state of the water, but the fact that every household has running water is quite commendable.
What is worrying though is that a maintenance programme of this magnitude, which affects millions of residents, and might have taken weeks if not months to plan for, needed a few hours notice for the affected people to prepare themselves. It goes without saying that residents should have been advised on time, through the various media and broadcasting platforms.
The frequently asked question by residents was: Why did Council give us such short notice considering that water is life? When Council appealed to residents to “use the available water sparingly”, which water was this when the taps were already dry?
While some households have sunk boreholes, in most high-density suburbs, there have been efforts to have community boreholes sunk a few hundred metres from households. But when people go for days without the precious liquid, it is amazing to watch and listen to the unorthodox means used to get water. It’s total war!
The writer had time to do that at the weekend, watching people at some boreholes, shouting at each other and in some cases using obscene language, while others were ready to engage in fist fights.
It was also a sorry state to see children, two-litre bottles in hand, the elderly and pregnant women, not being given an opportunity to fetch water because the tussling required a lot of aggression and stamina…