Residents have expressed their long term dissatisfaction with the authorities responsible for water supply. Attention has also turned to the private water companies who stand accused of providing substandard services and operating outside of regulations.
Neighbourhoods across the city have witnessed zero or erratic municipal delivery, burst pipes, dry boreholes, and polluted water. Harare residents have been left in quandary.
On top of this, in what many see as abuse of consumers, residents feel that the levies charged by City of Harare and ZINWA are a rip off. “We believe the levies we are being asked to pay for water services are way too high,” says Rungano Mandaza, a resident in Mandara. “They are not fair given the bad service we are getting from the City of Harare and ZINWA,” he added.
This is particularly true for the northern suburbs, where research from activist and advocacy group Kubatana shows water is being deliberately restricted. Local government activist Mike Davies says that, “Council made a decision at some point to restrict water to the northern suburbs based on the untrue assumption that the residents there were able to take care of themselves. This is a form of discrimination. If people are paying for a service, they are entitled to it.”
Borrowdale is one area where municipal water has barely been delivered at all in more than a decade. According to Ward 18 Councillor, Rusty Markham, Borrowdale residents pay excessive levies for zero service. In terms of municipal water supply, Markham describes Ward 18 as “a forgotten child of the city.” To partially address this, Council passed a resolution in October 2014 to reduce tariffs of undersupplied areas by 10%, but this was never implemented. Markham says that Council now owes each Borrowdale residents $60.
Profiting from the situation are the water delivery businesses, many of which fly under the radar. Gary Gripper of resident action group Water Awareness is concerned by this. “They are so many unregistered bulk water suppliers operating in our areas and the responsible authorities have done nothing to stop them,” he said. Experts say that unregistered suppliers are depleting community underground water reserves (see page 10 for more on this), and some have been noticed collecting water from dubious sources.
“We believe that some of the water being sold is coming from uninspected source such as dams. Who is inspecting the containers transporting that water?” asked Gripper. Even in instances when the public come forward with the location and identity of illegal companies, nothing has been done to investigate. Residents have come to doubt the sincerity and capability of ZINWA in regulating what is a potentially dangerous business.
There are only eight registered bulk water suppliers in Harare and yet dozens of different businesses seem to be operating, as evidenced by the numerous trucks ferrying water around the city often with water spilling from their tanks. Hense Ross, Chairman of the Bulk Water Association, said that the association is concerned by the unregistered bulk water suppliers, saying that they are enjoying freedoms that make registering a competitive disadvantage. “We are not getting much from water delivery considering the expenses we are incurring,” Ross said, in reference to the various levies that registered operators must pay.
Meanwhile, ZINWA has maintained that it is fulfilling its mandate as per government instruction. Corporate Communications Officer, Tsungirira Shoriwa indicated that the authority is enforcing its rules, and is ready to apprehend anyone who violates their directives.