High Court dismisses water rights campaigners application to avert water crisis

By Court Reporter

HIGH Court Judge Justice Owen Tagu on Wednesday 9 October 2019
dismissed an urgent chamber application filed by Community Water
Alliance Trust (CWAT) seeking an order to compel President Emmerson
Mnangagwa and his government to urgently act and ensure the provision
of water to Harare residents and avert a crisis and potential loss of
lives including the outbreak of diseases.

Justice Tagu ruled that the urgency of CWAT’s application had been
overtaken by “events” and upheld submissions filed by Local
Government, Public Works and National Housing Minister Hon. July Moyo,
who during the hearing on 4 October 2019 had argued that water pumping
at Morton Jaffray Water Treatment Plant had resumed after he
intervened following its shutdown when City of Harare ran out of
chemicals for water treatment.

In the application, which was filed at the High Court on Wednesday 25
September 2019, CWAT represented by Denford Halimani of Zimbabwe
Lawyers for Human Rights, wanted the court to order President
Mnangagwa to declare a state of disaster in the capital to enable
resources to be channeled towards the water crisis in Harare.

CWAT argued that despite the calamity of the water crisis, President
Mnangagwa had inexplicably not exercised his powers to declare a state
of disaster, which would allow for the intervention of central
government and donor support to avert a foreseeable imminent disaster.

Residents in most of Harare’s suburbs have gone for long periods
without access to running water after City of Harare announced on
Monday 23 September 2019 that it was shutting down Morton Jaffray
Water Treatment Plant citing foreign currency shortages to purchase
water treatment chemicals.

CWAT argued that local and central government’s failure to supply
safe, clean and potable water constitutes a breach of residents’
rights enshrined in section 77 of the Constitution and indicated that
the right to water is necessary for the enjoyment of other human
rights such as the right to life, human dignity, health and food.

The water rights campaigners said President Mnangagwa, Hon. Moyo,
Lands, Agriculture, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement Minister
Senator Perrance Shiri and City of Harare, who were cited as
respondents should find alternative means to supply safe, clean and
potable water to the affected residents of Harare so as to avert a
crisis and potential loss of lives and outbreak of diseases.

In response to the CWAT’s application, both City of Harare and the
Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing argued
that they have taken all necessary action to address the water crisis
including examining alternative water purification methods so as to
reduce the number of chemicals and costs involved.

Despite the ruling by Justice Tagu, an assessment of the water
situation in Harare by ZLHR and CWAT showed that some suburbs are yet
to receive water supplies while those that have received some supplies
are getting dirty water which is not suitable for household use or
drinking.