Joy Turns To Pain For Karoi’s New Homeowners

By Nhau Mangirazi
Karoi, March 26, 2015- – Thirty-three-year-old Regina Bakasa saw her woes coming to an
end when her family was allocated a stand in a new suburb in Karoi,
one of many that have sprouted in various towns and cities in recent
years to clear a perennial housing backlog.
Eight years later the mother of three, like many new homeowners
elsewhere, is living a nightmare in Claudia suburb with no running
water.
Residents, who have improvised makeshift sanitary facilities, live
under the specter of a potential diarrhoea disease outbreak.

Bakasa wakes up before the break of dawn to beat the queue to an
unprotected communal well.

‘’We are used to waking up early and get fresh water from the river.
We are assured that it will be clean’’ she said referring to the
untreated water which looks clean to the naked eye.
Bakasa is among nearly 200 families living in Claudia, a middle-income
suburb in the farming town, with an estimated population of 1000, at
least 60 percent of them women.

Since the new homeowners were allocated stands in 2007, their
womenfolk face the daily struggle to access clean water.
Situated 204 kilometers north-west of Harare, Karoi is home to 80 000
according to a health survey of 2009.
Like elsewhere in the country, the local authority is failing to
provide basic service including piped water and sanitation facilities
to new suburbs.
Local resident who witnessed the 2009 cholera epidemic that affected
57 out of 63 districts in the country live in constant fear of another
outbreak.
At least 435 people in town were affected during the epidemic which
claimed 4000 lives countrywide.
‘’Few people have protected wells to get clean water. Generally, the
water table is low and I can only rely on water from the nearby
river’’ said Chenai Matape another resident in the new suburb
Residents, desperate to secure houses of their own after
the government urban clean-up blitz Operation Murambatsvina,
considered it a dream come true when they were allocated stands and
saw sanitation facilities as a luxury.
‘’I could not think of water challenges as I needed shelter with my
two kids following the death of my husband three years ago,” said
Matape.
“Unfortunately we are not getting any answers from those in council
offices. They have neglected us and have nothing for us. Residents
here are using bush system as there are no toilets.”

A local schoolteacher who declined to be named said, ‘’After Operation
Murambatsvina, we had hope of better shelter and we did not mind that
the residential stands were not serviced. There are no roads, no site
of water treatment plant nearby among other social necessities.
You cannot talk about electricity here.’’

Residents in the oldest suburb Chikangwe are not spared either. They
suffer from erratic water supplies going for nearly two weeks without
water due to broken water pipes and blame the Zimbabwe National Water
Authority for failing to address the problem..
But Zinwa said the problem was beyond them.
‘’It is a national concern for us,” said an official speaking on
condition of anonymity. “We cannot assist either as there is no money
for repairs. We have gone for three months without salaries and you
think the company can afford to install water if it cannot raise
enough money to repair old pipes.’’
Zinwa spokesperson Marjorie Munyonga said Zinwa is owed about US$103
million by various consumers, with Government departments, irrigators
and local authorities accounting for the bulk of the debt.
‘’Of the amount, irrigators owe $37 million, local authorities $24
million, Government $20 million mines $3 million, domestic consumers
$6 million, parastatals $5 million while other clients such as
churches, schools, businesses and industry account for the rest’’ she
said in a statement.
‘’Just like any other organisation, Zinwa bears the brunt of liquidity
crunch resulting in it failing to meet some of its obligations such as
the payment of salaries, statutory obligations and the procurement of
critical spares for operations. Zinwa appeal to consumers to settle
their bills since bill payments cannot be divorced from service
delivery’’ she added.
Karoi town secretary Maxwell Kaitano admitted that the new location
established after Operation Murambatsvina is a burden to council’s
housing department.

He said, ‘’Zinwa has no financial capacity to service the stands and
bring water to residents. They are failing to repair the water
treatment plant and we are facing a real challenge. We engaged United
Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) in 2011 to assist us and avert the
looming health hazard’’

Kaitano added that they have allowed residents to build blair toilets
and pit latrines to curb open defecation.
Meanwhile, women like are facing the same challenges they faced when
they were allocated the stands years ago despite pledges by the
authorities to install water and sanitation facilities.
The Gender, Water and Sanitation policy developed by the Inter-agency
Task Force on Gender and Water (GWTF),a sub-program of both UN-Water
and the Interagency Network on Women and Gender Equality (IANWGE) in
support of the International Decade for Action, ‘Water for Life,’
2005–2015 says access to sanitation is vital for women and children.

‘’Lack of sanitation, poor hygiene causes water-borne diseases
including diarrhea, cholera, typhoid and other parasitic infections.
2.2 million people in developing countries die annually from
preventable diseases associated with lack of access to safe drinking
water, inadequate sanitation and poor hygiene’’ says the policy
document.

’Social and environmental health costs of ignoring the need to address
sanitation are far too great. A focus on gender differences is of
particular importance with regard to sanitation initiatives, and
gender-balanced approaches should be encouraged in plans and
structures for implementation’’

Women like Bakasa and Matape can only pray that her children will
survive the ‘’looming health hazard” while waiting for the day they
will see the first water drops dripping from their taps.