Asked to name the basic human rights, people mention education, shelter, the right to vote, the right to identification and many others. Having any one of these human rights infringed causes people to take to the streets. The human right that only a few people have taken to the streets about is the right to Water – the right to clean, sufficient, safe, physically accessible, affordable water. Zimbabwe has had water issues for far too long and sadly the Unity Government has been doing nothing but tossing the responsibility for this problem around like a hot potato. Raw sewage is flowing into dams that provide drinking water. People have been resorting to storing whatever water they can get in containers, others are relying on boreholes. Most residents, especially in the High Density areas don’t have access to boreholes; they have to rely on other sources. Some neighbourhoods in Harare and Bulawayo have not had running water for months and other areas for years. For those that do have water it trickles out of the taps often mixed with a green sludgy substance; it is “coloured and flavoured” not to mention textured. It is a cocktail and we have no idea what is in it.
The water problem is an issue of no small magnitude which our Government and Local Councils do not take seriously enough .The related very serious health impact that the water problems have created is the increasing cases of cholera and typhoid. These water borne diseases have thrived in areas with little access to clean water. Water does affect our quality of life as a nation and Government has an obligation to address this issue and ensure that every Zimbabwean, regardless of their political affiliation or location has safe, affordable, physically accessible, sufficient water supplies and respectable sanitation. The Government is responsible for the way the Nation is run and it is accountable for the drainage systems, our sewage systems, the condition of our water pipes, quality of water and providing respectable, efficient sanitation. We need an accelerated pipe replacement programme complemented by swift reaction teams to repair burst pipes, boreholes are not a sustainable source of water for millions of residents. In the long term the water table will be depleted due to the drilling of so many boreholes and many of them will become dry. Government also needs to consider the impact this has on the environment in the long term. Boreholes are also difficult to manage because they must be regularly tested for impurities.
The sewage system is also in desperate need of rehabilitation and if this problem is to be tackled, there needs to be enough water available to enable the sewage to flow effectively. Not having a proper, functioning sanitation system and sewage drainage system alone is a health hazard.
Water has been politicised in Zimbabwe. As long as the local authority is not in a position to out-manoeuvre the water politics then the citizens have a big problem. Our Government cannot afford to pay for the water for its citizens but it should be able to provide clean water at an affordable price.
The right to water is the right of every Zimbabwean, it’s everybody’s right to sufficient, safe, acceptable and physically accessible and affordable water for personal and domestic use. It’s not a privilege it’s a right!