By Nomalanga Moyo
SW Radio Africa
22 January 2014
More than 100,000 Kwekwe residents spent three days without water after the country’s water authority disconnected the city over an outstanding debt.
Kwekwe City Council owes the state-owned Zimbabwe National Water Authority (ZINWA) more than $1.2 million.
The city council is struggling to pay its creditors, largely due to the politically-induced debt cancellation scheme which wiped off $10 million.
From Sunday until Tuesday night, there was no running water in thousands of households in the city as supplies were cut off to force the council to pay up.
Weston Masiya, the councillor for Ward 3 in Mbizo, told this station that water supply was restored after the municipality paid a token sum to the water authority.
“The Kwekwe City Council owes ZINWA a lot of money, but its capacity to service its debts was severely eroded by last year’s debt write-off directive.
“The council is struggling to provide services to residents and if that directive was about the welfare of residents, then government should have extended the cancellation to cover debts owed by local authorities to government bodies such as ZINWA,” councillor Masiya said.
Kwekwe legislator for the Mbizo Constituency, Settlement Chikwinya, criticised the water authority for failing to warn residents that it would be disconnecting supply.
“For ZINWA to cut off Kwekwe’s water supply for three days without any warning is inhuman, unprofessional and barbaric.
“Residents were caught unawares because we don’t usually have water problems in Kwekwe. Many families were left with no water to drink or flush toilets, and such situations expose people to waterborne diseases,” Chikwinya said.
He told SW Radio Africa that hundreds of families queued for hours to fetch water from a borehole located in one of the constituency schools.
“I do not condone non-payment of dues owed to ZINWA by the city council but there are other measures that could have been taken by ZINWA to recover debt, than shutting off raw water supplies.”
He said the water authority could have used the courts to attach council property, including the mayoral residence which Chikwinya said is still being occupied by ex-mayor Stanford Bonyongwa, whose term expired in 2008.
The MDC-T MP also blamed Local Government Minister Ignatius Chombo’s debt write-off for depriving local authorities of much-needed revenue, saying the directive “was insincere and lacked business sense”.
ZANU PF forced local authorities to cancel rate payers’ debts just before the July 31st polls, a move which municipal administrators slammed as an ill-conceived populist gimmick which plunged all the 92 authorities into the red.