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Zimbabwe: Govt Must Prioritise Food, Water

Political analysts generally believe that a new government sets the tone of its rule in the first hundred days in office.

Zimbabweans too have adopted a similar stance, where they scrutinise their government very closely in that short period.

Unfortunately for Zimbabwe, the first 50 days have not given any hint as to what the new government’s priorities are. It is important to note that the country went 40 days without a government, meaning the new ministers really have to hit the ground running.

Zanu PF won the elections on the back of the pro-people policies it spelt out in its election manifesto; it must therefore follow through the promises it made.

There are two areas that need urgent attention and by which it will be judged on the hundredth day. About 2,2 million people are facing a food crisis and there is a water problem in urban areas, particularly in Harare and Bulawayo.

The food crisis has hit hard four provinces namely, Masvingo, Matabeleland North and South, and parts of the Midlands. The drier parts of Manicaland have not been spared either.

Government should move fast to import the staple maize and ensure it is equitably distributed in these areas. Since Zanu PF swept these provinces in the elections, it is hoped the distribution would be done in a non-partisan manner.

Government should also address the question of a permanent solution to the perennial food shortages in these areas.

The same should be said for cities and towns that have been hit by the shortage of water.

In the capital, Harare, the water shortage is mainly caused by old infrastructure and the lack of funding for water-treatment chemicals.

A huge amount of treated water is lost through leakages. Harare should address this problem quickly because, by simply plugging all the leakages, the supply of water improves significantly.

In its five-year life, the government must be seen to have come up with long-lasting solutions to the water crisis.

Dams that have been mooted ages ago should be constructed. In the Matabeleland provinces the Matabeleland Zambezi water project should now become a reality.

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Zimbabwe: Not All Borehole Water Is Safe – Experts

RESIDENTS must ensure that new water sources are tested and analysed first before the water is used for domestic purposes to avoid contracting diseases, a senior government official has said.

The warning comes after it emerged that most Harare residents, including those in high-density suburbs, have resorted to drinking borehole water, some of which has been found to be contaminated.

Harare residents have turned to borehole water because they no longer trust the smelly and at times sewage-contaminated water supplied by the local authority.

Government analyst laboratory director in the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare, Livingstone Musiyambiri said it was prudent that people ensured that new water sources were analysed first before domestic use.

“Evidence has always proved that underground water can be contaminated at any stage, especially in the era of industrialisation where excess chemicals find their way into the water. There is also the likelihood of sewage seepage,” he said.

Musiyambiri said if it were not for the heavily polluted environment, rainwater would have been one of the cleanest.

“If residents continue to drill boreholes and do not consult the local authorities or independent experts to test their water, they risk drinking contaminated water,” he warned.

Harare and Chitungwiza get their water supplies from heavily-polluted Chivero and Manyame dams.

The failure by the Harare City Council (HCC) to supply clean running water has forced residents to drill boreholes, posing a serious threat to people’s health, as well as affecting the city’s water table.

Earlier this year HCC director of health services, Prosper Chonzi said 33% of the 254 council boreholes in the city were contaminated with faecal matter.

Faecal matter transmits diseases such as typhoid and cholera.

Over 4 000 people succumbed to cholera from August 2008 to mid-2009, as contaminated water supplies spread the disease amid the country’s failing health care systems.

Musiyambiri said water from any source may appear clean to the naked human eye but could in actual fact be heavily contaminated.

“Common among a host of health complications that result from continuously drinking water contaminated by chemicals is dental fluorosis or mottling of tooth enamel. Over the years the teeth become yellow in colour,” said Musiyambiri.

Pregnant women can also pass on this condition to their unborn babies who will later on exhibit the signs and symptoms of the disease, he said.

It is feared that water-borne diseases could continue spreading, as most people do not seek approval from the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa) as required by the law before the drilling of the boreholes.

There are also reports that Harare’s water table is now pathetically low and could soon dry up if no corrective measures are urgently put in place.

An official with Livewater Boreholes, a borehole drilling firm, said it was not a surprise that some boreholes were drying up, as people were just drilling boreholes without expert advice.

“When people drill boreholes so close to each other, there is bound to be interference and one of the boreholes might dry up,” said the official. “The water table is getting lower and it is a known fact.”

Zinwa public relations officer, Tsungirirai Shoriwa urged residents to seek authority before drilling boreholes.

“This process allows us to keep a database, which will help us monitor the situation and prevent overdrawing of water from the ground,” he said.

A permit to drill a borehole costs US$30, while a site plan which is a prerequisite costs around US$150.

Shoriwa also said according to Section 35 of the Water Act, no one is allowed to sink, alter or deepen a borehole without seeking permission.

The United Nations says 2,7 billion people worldwide will face severe water shortages by 2025 if governments do not prioritise water governance and management.

In Africa alone, 345 million people lack access to water while 3,4 million die from water-related diseases.

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Zimbabwe: Chinese Engineers Arrive Today

CHINESE water engineers who were seconded to upgrade the city’s water delivery system under the US$144 million China Import and Export Bank loan are expected in the country today. Town clerk Dr Tendai Mahachi yesterday confirmed that the delegation of Chinese engineers would arrive this afternoon.

“I can confirm that a team of Chinese engineers will arrive at Harare International Airport today via an Ethiopian Airways plane,” he said.

“They are expected to start work next week.”

The city has partnered with CMEC of China in the implementation of the project after sourcing funding from China.

This followed the city’s incapacity to provide tap water to residents due to constant breakdowns of machinery at water works and pipe bursts.

Some Chinese engineers last month came to Harare to view the designs of the city’s water plants and the various reticulation systems which they validated after the tour.

The upgrade of water and sewer works is expected to be completed in three years and in the second year of project implementation, 80 percent of Harare residents are envisaged to receive water on a regular basis.

The Harare water department produces 450 mega litres a day from Prince Edward and Morton Jaffray Water Works, 100 mega litres of which are lost through leaks due to dilapidated infrastructure against a normal requirement of 900mega litres a day.

The daily requirement is expected to rise to between 1 200 to 1 500 mega litres starting this month due to the prevailing hot temperatures.

At full implementation, Morton Jaffray and Prince Edward water treatment plants are expected to produce up to 705 mega litres a day.

Harare City Council officials together with the director of water Engineer Christopher Zvobgo visited China last month to map out the details of the asset supply plan, loan disbursement and selection of suppliers for the city’s water department.

Harare City signed the loan agreement with the Chinese in 2011 as a result of cordial relations between the country and Zimbabwe.

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Zimbabwe: Water Woes Trigger Fears of Disease Out-Break

Most Harare residents spent the weekend without any water, amid reports that the city’s major hospitals were drowning in filth as a result.

Over the weekend Harare City authorities were forced to issue to a statement after residents, who had experienced erratic supplies for a week, demanded an explanation.

The authority blamed maintenance work on leaking valves and pumps at the Morton Jeffrey Treatment Plant for the water shortages.

A Herald newspaper report quoted Harare Water director Christopher Zvobgo saying the repairs were complete and “by Monday everything will be back to normal”.

But SW Radio Africa correspondent Simon Muchemwa said it was highly unlikely that the city’s water supply will return to ‘normalcy’ anytime soon.

By Monday afternoon there were indications that most eastern and northern suburbs still had no water, including parts of Glen Norah A.

Muchemwa said unless there was a complete overhaul of the whole water infrastructure the burst pipes and leaking valves and pumps will continue to interrupt water supply.

“The infrastructure that is still in place dates back to the colonial period, and it was meant to cater for less than a million people, not the current three million. The pipes are old and no amount of repairs will fix the natural wear and tear,” he said.

“There is also the issue of intermittent electricity supply which is affecting sewerage treatment works, and the amount of water being pumped into main water supplier Lake Chivero.

“Lake Chivero is also downstream, and pumping the water back to residential areas which are located upstream requires a lot of power, which ZESA does not have,” Muchemwa added.

Last week Tuesday, the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority, which imports the bulk of the country’s power, said it was increasing load shedding, citing ongoing maintenance work at its supplier the Hydro Cahorra Bassa.

Adding to the problems has been the fact that just before the July 31st elections, Local Government Minister Ignatius Chombo ordered the country’s local authorities to write off debts accrued by ratepayers between February 2009 and June 2013.

The move, seen by observers as a political and populist move aimed at vote buying by ZANU PF, has left many authorities struggling to provide essential services including purchasing chemicals for water treatment.

On Sunday, a report in the privately-owned Standard newspaper indicated that Harare and Parirenyatwa hospitals were struggling to cope, with visitors now having to take their own water into the premises for patients.

The paper further reported terrible smells from the hospitals’ toilets as well as an overspill of human waste, raising fears of a disease outbreak.

Visitors told the paper that they were being forced by circumstances to provide their ill relatives with drinking and bathing water, although this is not allowed.

However, an official at Parirenyatwa Hospital downplayed the problem, saying the water crisis “just like the rest of the city,” the Standard quoted Thomas Zigora, the chief executive, as saying.

Zigora added that the hospital had a couple of boreholes and a reservoir to rely on.

But according to Muchemwa, this Plan B is thanks to foreign donor-funded initiatives that responded to a looming health crisis in Harare.

He said: “Last year, agencies such as United Nations Children’s Fund and the United Nations Development Programme provided funding for the sinking of wells and boreholes throughout Harare to alleviate the outbreak of waterborne diseases.”

Reports say the Chinese have offered the Harare city Council a loan of $144 million to revamp the ailing water supply infrastructure, starting October.

The Harare Residents Trust responded to the news by saying that it hoped the loan “will be used transparently to contribute significantly to the improvement of water supplies, the quality of the water, the distribution network and also the upgrading of the sewerage treatment plant at Firle.

“It is unfortunate that very little is known about this deal between the City of Harare and the Chinese Eximbank, but what is known is that residents will repay this loan at an interest rate above 10 percent.”

The current water problems mirror the general state of decline being witnessed in other sectors including education, health and transport infrastructure.

Late last month, President Robert Mugabe caused outrage when he threatened to deprive residents of Harare and Bulawayo of essential services for ditching him in the July elections.

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Zimbabwe: Questionable Water Brands Still Selling

Uncertified brands of bottled water will continue to flood the market as the authorities responsible for taking them off the shelves are struggling to carry out their mandate due to “inadequate resources” and unclear operating structures.

Food Standards Advisory Board (FSAB) deputy director Freddy Chinyavanhu said his organisation only certified water, but the municipal health and the environmental health departments were supposed to ensure that the uncertified or condemned water was not on the market.

“The way we operate is that the FSAB certifies the water on behalf of the Minister/Secretary for Health. We then advise municipal health authorities like the Harare City Health and the Environmental Health/Port Health Department [within the ministry] of the certified brands,” he said.

“It is the mandate of these two institutions to ensure that only certified brands are on sale, and also that certified brands pass through the border posts.”

Chinyavanhu said the departments of municipal health and environmental health had indicated that they could not always carry out their duties due to limited resources.

“The institutions sometimes tell us that they do not have adequate resources to enforce laid down regulations. The resources include manpower, vehicles and fuel,” he said, adding that it was possible that some uncertified brands were still being sold.

“You can appreciate that it will be difficult to remove 100% of the uncertified water but we try. We would appreciate it if alert citizens bring such issues to our attention.”

However, an FSAB board member who refused to be named said it was actually the duty of the body to ensure that the unsafe products were off the shelves.

“FSAB reports directly to the Secretary for Health, and it is their duty and mandate to take that water off the shelf. They are just trying to play hide and seek and shelving blame on others. That is why this problem will not go away because no one will own up,” said the source.

Meanwhile, Quality Assurance director for the Standards Association of Zimbabwe (SAZ), Sebastian Zuze said his organisation was aimed at maintaining high standards but said as long as getting a SAZ label was on a voluntary basis, it would not be easy.

“We continue to champion world-class standards but getting a SAZ label is still on voluntary basis, and so a company can choose not to get it.”

Early this year Zuze appealed to parliament to craft legislation that would compel companies to get SAZ certification, so as to ensure that only quality products are sold to consumers.

“We operate in a global village and we encourage competitiveness and no longer rely on protectionism,” he said, adding that the business of bottled water was very lucrative.

“Our aim is to protect the consumer by setting standards that address health concerns. When companies approach us we take a sample and run it in our laboratories,” he said, adding that the process was not be a once-off affair as they would periodically check if the standard was being maintained.

‘SAZ, FSAB battling for superiority’

There seems to be growing animosity between FSAB and SAZ in terms of which testing standards are better than the other.

Recently, bottled water trading under the name Aqua Crystal which is registered by the FSAB was condemned by SAZ.

“SAZ are not a regulatory authority and they only do voluntary certification. Only the Ministry of Health through the FSAB has the mandate to carry out compulsory certification of all food products in Zimbabwe,” said Chinyavanhu adding that they only certified products based on analysis reports from government analyst laboratory only.

“We certify products based on analyses/test reports from government analyst laboratory and not any other laboratory,” he said.

Meanwhile, bottled water Leau Choisie, which was once among the brands condemned for having a higher chemical composition, has been certified by FSAB.

“According to my records, the two [Leau Choisie, Aqua Crystal] are certified,” said Chinyavanhu.

Some of the companies that have the SAZ labels are Schweppes, ZLG, Chromopak, Somersby, Springvale, Well Pure, Aqualite (Dairiboard), Mr Juicy, Nilesroom and Kumakomo beverages.

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Zimbabwe: Towns Run Dry as Residents Call for Urgent Action

Various towns in Zimbabwe are battling with acute water shortages, leading to calls from residents that urgent action be taken to restore proper services.

Shortages have been reported in and around Zimbabwe’s major cities, and in Harare at least seven suburbs have had little to no water for well over a week.

The Harare Residents Trust said that areas like Glen Norah, Glen View, Budiriro, Highfield and Kuwadzana have been badly affected, with the city council blaming old equipment and high demand for the water woes.

Precious Shumba, the director of the Residents Trust, said the worst affected area has been Chitungwiza, which has faced serious shortages for about three weeks. The high density area was the centre of the cholera epidemic that swept Zimbabwe in late 2008, leaving thousands dead. Shumba said nothing has been done since then to ensure that residents have access to clean water, which is essential in preventing water borne diseases like cholera.

“The water situation remains critical and people remain at risk because residents are resorting to digging wells and boreholes without following proper regulations. So the threats of diseases like typhoid and cholera remain very high,” Shumba told SW Radio Africa.

He added that residents are desperate for action, and called on the incoming council leadership to prioritise the water and sanitation issues plaguing the capital city.

Meanwhile the City of Gweru and its immediate surroundings were also battling serious water shortages this week, with the authorities reportedly citing an equipment breakdown at the local water plant. In a statement released on Wednesday, Gweru Town Clerk Daniel Matawu said the water challenges were likely to last for the whole of this week. He said the water challenges were a result of a burnt motor at ‘Range Booster’.

“The Gweru City Council would like to inform all the residents of Gweru that one of the pump sets at our Range Booster has developed a serious fault. The fault involves a burnt motor,” he said.

The water problems across the country come as ZANU PF has been insisting that Western imposed targeted sanctions are to blame for the problems dogging Zimbabwe, including issues like cholera outbreaks. This is despite the fact that over the past three decades Robert Mugabe’s government has put no money into the upkeep of local infrastructure, needed to ensure basic services are available to residents.

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Zimbabwe: Zinwa to De-Silt Water Courses

The Zimbabwe National Water Authority has embarked on an exercise to de-silt water courses across the country and has acquired advanced equipment from United Kingdom for that purpose. In an Interview at ongoing Harare Agriculture Show, ZINWA public relations officer Mr Tsungirirai Shoriwa said the authority acquired four draglines to carry out the exercise which is expected to restore the normal flow of river systems.

He said ZINWA and the suppliers of the equipment has so far trained 20 workers on how to use and assemble the machines in the seven major catchment areas.

Mr Shoriwa said rampant gold panning, alluvial mining, and poor agricultural activities are the major causes of siltation.

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Zimbabwe: Harare to Ease Water Woes

HARARE City Council is processing work permits for Chinese water engineers seconded to the capital to upgrade the city’s water delivery system under the US$144 million China Import and Export Bank loan.Town clerk Dr Tendai Mahachi confirmed on Wednesday that he would be leading a delegation of Harare engineers to China to conclude the

acquisition of plant and equipment that would be used under the three-year water and sewer upgrade programme.

The city has partnered with CMEC of China in the implementation of the project.

Officials from the company were on Wednesday seen moving from office to office at Town House in a clear show of the commitment to go ahead with the project.

The city sourced the funding from China following complaints by residents that they were not getting enough water and also after realising that the water and sewer distribution network was old and in need of replacement. The 2008 cholera outbreak added urgency in the city plans to upgrade water and sewer facilities.

“We have concluded all the designs for plants for various reticulation requirements that we need. We had Chinese engineers here for two weeks to validate the design plans,” said Dr Mahachi.

He said the water and sewer upgrade would be implemented in three years.

Dr Mahachi said during the second year of project implementation, 80 percent of Harare residents would receive water on a regular basis.

He said the Chinese were pushing for the speedy implementation of the water project in line with the initial agreement.

At full implementation Morton Jaffray and Prince Edward water treatment plants would be able to produce up to 705 megalitres a day, he said.

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Zimbabwe: Projects Under Threat

The development of more than 5 000 houses in Masvingo is under threat from a looming shortage of water.

The municipality is battling to meet demand owing to falling water levels in Lake Mutirikwi, which is Masvingo’s sole water source. The lake is about 16 percent full and the city has been struggling to meet surging demand for water.

There are growing fears within council that the development of over 5 000 houses in Zimre Park in Clovelly, Hillside Extension in Mucheke and Victoria Ranch would worsen an already dire situation as demand for water will increase.

Masvingo town clerk Mr Adolph Gusha confirmed that the water would not be enough to meet the demand in the new suburbs. “At current pumping levels, the water that we have will not be enough to meet the demand if the new three suburbs come on board,” said Mr Gusha. “Already we are struggling to meet demand for water for households that we have so we are trying to run around to make sure that we improve the water supply.”

Mr Gusha said council hoped that the imminent rollout of the 7 km water pipeline expansion project at the Lake Mutirikwi water abstraction point would partially ease the looming water shortages.

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Zimbabwe: Project Begins

Harare City Council with the help of a group of Chinese engineers has begun a three-year project that will see close to 80 percent of the city’s residents receiving uninterrupted water supplies. The project is being financed through a US$144 million water and sanitation loan facility from the Import and Export Bank of China and will see the rehabilitation, replacement, installation and commissioning of the city’s water equipment.

“The project is in full swing and preliminary designs have been done and confirmed,” town clerk Dr Tendai Mahachi said yesterday. “Design of plant layout, equipment required and how the equipment fits into the sphere of things at Morton Jaffray has already been ascertained.”

A group of Chinese engineers was in the country last week to help with project priorities such as Morton Jaffray Water Works, sewer treatment plants and water reticulation.

“Once the project is finished, we expect Morton Jaffray Water Works to be working to full capacity and producing 650 megalitres daily,” said Dr Mahachi. “The new technology also saves energy and this will see the city providing water to residents at minimum cost.” The City of Harare is struggling to supply clean and safe water to residents and most suburbs have had to bear with intermittent water supplies for years.

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