Zim courts seized with petitions for restoration of water supplies to residents of #COVID-19 national lockdown

THE High Courts will this week be seized with determining three urgent
chamber applications in which several residents in Chitungwiza, Mutare
and Masvingo are seeking orders to compel municipalities, councils and
central government to provide water during the subsistence of the
national lockdown period and afterwards to help slow down the spread
of the coronavirus epidemic in Zimbabwe.

High Court Judge Justice Owen Tagu will on Monday 6 April 2020 preside
over the determination of an urgent chamber application filed by
Chitungwiza Residents Trust (Chitrest), represented by Tonderai
Bhatasara and Tinashe Chinopfukutwa of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human
Rights (ZLHR), protesting against the pro-longed lack of running tap
water supplies in Chitungwiza.

In Masvingo, High Court Judge Justice Neville Wamambo will on Monday 6
April 2020 hear a petition filed by Masvingo residents Nevermine
Mutamba and Musekiwa Sungano Zvarebwanashe and Masvingo United
Residents and Ratepayers Alliance represented by Martin Mureri of ZLHR
seeking an order to force City of Masvingo, Local Government, Public
Works and National Housing Minister July Moyo, Health and Child Care
Minister Obadiah Moyo and Finance and Economic Development Minister
Mthuli Ncube to ensure that residents access water.

On Tuesday 7 April 2020, High Court Judge Justice Hlekani Mwayera in
Mutare will hear arguments from Passmore Nyakureba of ZLHR, who is
representing Mutare resident Ephraim Matanda and United Mutare
Residents and Ratepayers Trust, who on Saturday 4 April 2020 filed an
urgent chamber application against City of Mutare, Moyo, Ncube and
Moyo seeking an order to compel them to supply adequate, constant,
clean and potable water to residents of the eastern border city who
have lived for years without running tap water.

In their applications, the residents and residents associations argued
that local municipalities, councils and central government had failed
to discharge their constitutional obligations of ensuring the
provision of running water to residents and this was a breach of
several of the residents’ fundamental rights such as the right to
water as provided in section 77 of the Constitution, the right to
human dignity guaranteed in section 51 of the Constitution and the
right to health care enshrined in section 76 of the Constitution.

The residents also said their right to freedom from torture guaranteed
in section 53 of the Constitution was also being violated and this was
arising from the conduct of some law enforcement agents who were
ill-treating them while dispersing several people gathered at various
water points including public and private boreholes to fetch water for
domestic use.

Lack of access to water, the residents argued, was leading to the
violation of the right to life provided under section 48 of the
Constitution directly or indirectly through contracting deadly
diseases that are waterborne. The risk, the residents argued, was
further magnified by the outbreak of coronavirus which requires
greater hygiene that includes washing hands with soap and water, which
is only possible if there is potable water for domestic use.

The situation, the residents argued has now been compounded by the
imposition of the 21-day national lockdown to help combat the
coronavirus outbreak.

The residents argued that in order for them to fully comply with
government regulations and the spirit of the national lockdown as
urged by Moyo, the Health and Child Care Minister and in collaboration
with some international organisations such as World Health
Organisation, it is imperative that all people must exercise personal
hygiene and therefore some measures must urgently be put in place for
them to access water in their homes or at some points in a manner
which will not increase the spread of coronavirus.

Local municipalities, councils and central government, the residents
said, have neglected or refused to put such measures or to comply with
their constitutional obligations.

The local authorities and central government, the residents said must
during the duration of the national lockdown period ensure provision
of safe, adequate, potable and uninterrupted water supply to them and
make water available from bulk water suppliers including indicating
the location of the water bowsers and distribute it in their towns and
cities to avoid the grouping of big crowds at the water points in a
way that ensures lessening the spread of coronavirus.

The residents said the local authorities should provide crowd control
officers to ensure that people accessing water at various points do so
in a manner complying with the social distancing guidelines as
specified in various and lockdown directives issued by government.

Ncube, the residents said, must provide financial resources to
implement measures to ensure provision and access to water by
residents.
The municipalities and councils, the residents said should
periodically notify residents associations and residents on safety and
general hygiene that is water related in light of the coronavirus
through all medium of communication and such should also be accessible
to people living with disabilities and the visually impaired and the
deaf.