Locked down with no water, Chitungwiza residents confront govt

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By Mary Taruvinga

CHITUNGWIZA residents have filed an urgent chamber application with the High Court for council and government to provide safe and consistent water in the dormitory town at a time they were not allowed to leave their homes during a government imposed 21-day lockdown period to combat the spread of coronavirus.

Zimbabwe enters Day 5 of the national lockdown this Friday as cases rose to nine on Thursday.

Many residents in a town that has had its fair share of water challenges find themselves locked down without the scarce necessity.

In their application filed through the Chitungwiza Residents Trust (ChITREST), residents are seeking an order compelling their municipality and the central government to ensure safe, portable and uninterrupted  supply of water during the lockdown and after.

“In order for residents to comply with the spirit of the national lockdown as urged by the third respondent through various platforms and in collaboration with international organisations such as the World Health Organisation (WHO), it is imperative that all people must exercise personal hygiene, and therefore measures must be put in place for them to access water in their homes or at points in a manner which will not increase the spread of the Covid-19,” said the residents through Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR).

Cited as respondents are Chitungwiza municipality, Local Government minister, July Moyo, Health minister Obadiah Moyo and Finance minister Mthuli Ncube.

“The respondents have neglected, failed or refused to put such measures or to comply with their Constitutional obligations.

“Furthermore, there is irreparable harm and a real danger of the outbreak and spread of the Covid-19 and outbreak of other waterborne diseases like Cholera and typhoid amongst Chitungwiza residents during this lockdown period,” further reads their application.

The residents urged the courts to take a judicial notice of the fact that Mnangagwa promised Zimbabweans that water and ablution facilities were to be given priority during the lockdown.

An aggrieved resident, Alice Kuvheya said the situation was already dire in Chitungwiza.

“Residents are forced to purchase water at a cost of $2 per bucket which cost is high considering the volume of water needed for domestic purposes and the prevailing economic hardships.

This is despite that residents pay a fixed water charge of $160 per month to the local government ministry.

After President Emmerson Mnangagwa declared a lockdown last week, in the suburb of Zengeza, police allegedly forcibly dispersed residents who were fetching water at community boreholes.

Kuvheya said the right to water was enshrined in the national Constitution, and as such, the government ought to make sure that everyone got access to clean, portable water.

“Ablution facilities cannot operate without water. There is need for the court to intervene to save lives and prevent foreseeable deaths. The right to water is central to all other rights. There is need to prioritise it.”

The residents want the case to be heard urgently.