Bulk water delivery business LS Waters (pictured) was last month restored the right to operate by the High Court in Harare, and are running once more. Parent company Laubscher Services took the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (ZINWA) Upper Manyame Sub-Catchment Council (UMSCC) to court after being ordered to cease extracting water from their Greendale premises.
The case will have a negative bearing on a 1 October 2014 directive from the Ministry of Environment Water and Climate, that bulk water suppliers were to stop extractions from within Harare’s suburbs, and move to ZINWA-designated spots outside the city.
LS Waters claimed that there had been an inconsistent application of the law, and that having been issued with a license by ZINWA the subsequent order to stop operations was illegal and unfair. The judge agreed.
Represented by Obert Mawadze of Messrs Manase and Manase Legal Practitioners, LS Waters contended their suspension, which was based on an accusation of exceeding their extraction allowance, unlawfully and intentionally abstracting underground water with suspended permits knowing that there is a real risk or possibility that his permits were suspended, and threatening ZINWA official Wensley Muchineri.
The lawyer said the state found that his client had complied with ZINWA regulations, and not done anything wrong; in fact the case has exposed double standards going on at UMSCC.
“There are ZINWA officials who are owning bulk water businesses in the area, with the likes of Wensley Muchineri who is employed by UMCC as compliance manger for monitoring of water levels, being involved in shady deals. This a sheer breach of ethical standards,” said Mawadze.
“We have since established that the case against my client was to push him out of business, while ZINWA has allowed illegal bulk water suppliers to operate 200 metres from my client’s place,” said Mawadze in interview with Harare News.
“ZINWA did not act according to laws that it purports to serve. The law provides that in the event that there any changes to the rules, stakeholders in the business should be consulted. They never did that,” he said.
Another water business owner, Fanuel Tembo agrees. “We entered into a business contract with ZINWA and as such they cannot just change the rules when they like. Imagine what happens to the equipment we have invested in, the labour force we have hired?” said Tembo, a director of Highmel Services bulk water supplier.
The LS Waters case has exposed inconsistencies in the UMSCC’s licensing practice. Evidence reveals that shortly after the cancellation of the LS Waters operations, another bulk water supplier, Water At Home, was granted a licence and permit to extract water in the same area. The site operated by Water at Home was not recognised by the city of Harare’s planning department.
Documents in the hands of Harare News suggest that there were gross applications of rules by the sub-catchment council. For instance, bulk companies were issued with permits to abstract water and paid the inspections and permit fees, but were then being denied licenses to operate their water businesses.
All this shows the continued confusion and chaos in the City’s water management authorities. The problems are seemingly old ones since a damning 2008 report by the current UMSCC manager Donald Rwasoka, which described the water management terrain as “more or less an embodiment of rigged rules and double standards exacerbated by water sector policy misfiring,” and that there was no effective stakeholder engagement whatsoever.
Rwasoka, a respondent in the LS waters case, when asked in court if his 2008 report still rang true in 2015, chose silence.
It seems as though the 1 October directive from the Ministry of Environment is effectively a thing of the past. The upsurge of bulk water sales is back on track, with massive extractions taking place from countless city boreholes. Delivery trucks continue to move to and fro, as businesses profit from the appalling state of affairs created by City of Harare’s failure to deliver municipal water, a situation compounded by the inability and unwillingness of ZINWA to conduct effective stakeholder and resource management. With many city boreholes drying up, more and more residents will be up in arms in the coming year.