Government, council task-force to tackle worsening Harare water crisis

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By Leopold Munhende

CABINET has set up a special task-force to come up with an immediate solution to Harare’s worsening water crisis, Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa has said.

Mutsvangwa was speaking during Monday’s post cabinet media briefing, a week after Harare City Council shut down the city’s main water works at Morton Jaffray due to lack of water treatment chemicals.

“Cabinet endorsed the establishment of an inter-ministerial committee comprising the Minister of Local Government, Housing, Lands, Finance and the Harare City Council to come up with strategies to conclusively resolve the Harare city water supply situation in the short, medium and long term,” said Mutsvangwa.

Council and civic society organisations concerned about the worsening situation are calling on government to declare the situation a national disaster.

Government has resisted the move and maintained it can deal with the situation that is affecting most of the capital’s population of some two million people.

Last week, Acting Harare Mayor Enock Mupamaonde called on government to grant it authority to hunt for investors to rehabilitate the city’s water collection and reticulation system.

However, government has not budged and has since directed the task-force to court the investors instead against complaints by various sectors that the central authority is maintaining an overbearing influence on how Harare is run.

Added Mutsvangwa: “The strategies will entail soliciting for investments into the city’s additional water supply sources, revamping of the water and sewer reticulation systems, boosting the water treatment works and addressing the associated challenges of environmental pollution.”

Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa addressing journalists on Monday

Mutsvangwa also bemoaned Harare City Council’s decision to shut down Morton Jaffray without consulting government.

A dire shortage of much needed foreign currency to purchase water treatment chemicals has left the opposition MDC run council incapacitated.

Residents are having to drink water from boreholes, most of which are not safe while some have been forced to dig wells in their yards for survival.

Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube said treasury recently released RTGS$34 million and US$2.2 million to local chemical manufacturer Chemplex for Harare specifically.

He added no funds will be given to the local authority as all necessary payments will be made directly to suppliers.