Highlands residents are mulling taking collective action against the City of Harare to compel the municipality to supply them with 10 000 litres of water per week per household because they are not receiving council tap water.
Discussing their perennial water woes, the residents said they should consider taking collective action against the municipality so that it provides them with water until it fixes its unfair water distribution which has seen the suburb and other northern suburbs going for periods of up to two decades without municipal water.
The residents welcomed the suggestion saying it would go some way to address their persistent water challenges.
They spoke while responding to a fact-finding mission by Highlands residents and council officials that showed that there is no physical limitation to pumping water to the Highlands reservoirs and the lack of water in the suburb is due to the allocation system by the City of Harare.
On November 7, then Harare Mayor Ian Makone, Ward 7 Councillor Rose Muronda, water and sewer superintendent for Highlands Mr Felix Marodza and the Highlands Residents Working Group representatives Mr Nick de Swardt, Mr Tim Johnson and Engineer Peter Morris visited the Orange Grove Water Pump Station on a fact-finding mission on the water problems in Highlands.
In a report after the visit, Eng Morris said the lack of municipal water from the Highlands Reservoirs was a result of allocation by council authorities because there is no limitation to pumping water to residents’ houses from the reservoirs.
Residents expressed their disgust over the lack of seriousness within council on the water problems bedevilling the northern suburbs.
One resident said they once complained to a senior council official at Highlands District Office that they have not had council tap water for 20 years and the official laughed off the complaint as a “huge joke”.
The residents said they never want to deal with the official again and the fact-finding mission report had at least exposed the lies the residents have been told for more than 20 years about the physical limitations being responsible for their lack of water.
Residents said they will familiarise themselves with the Urban Councils Act to inform their action against council.
The residents sought to understand if the City of Harare is legally required to truck in 10 000 litres of water on a weekly basis if they don’t provide piped water to property owners.
Others felt they should seek relief in the courts for the council’s failure to deliver their constitutional right to water. The discussion also heard that the Public Health Act requires local authorities to supply water for drinking and household chores.
The Public Health Act Chapter 15:09 Section 64 states that:
“Every local authority, when required to do so by the Minister, shall provide and maintain, or cause to be provided and maintained as far as may be reasonably possible, a sufficient supply of wholesome water for drinking and domestic purposes, whether such supplies be derived from sources within or beyond its district, and for such purposes, it may purchase or otherwise acquire any land, waterworks, springs, fountains, water rights and premises, or rights incidental thereto, within or outside its district, and may construct, equip and maintain any works necessary for collecting, pumping or storing water.”
The Act also requires local authorities to maintain their waterworks.
“All water works vested in any local authority shall be maintained by the local authority in a condition for the effective distribution of a supply of pure water for drinking and domestic purposes,” states Section 66 of the Act.
Residents noted that the city committed to equitable water distribution some years back but the general attitude towards northern suburbs is “that we can afford to buy water”.
Suggestions were made for residents’ associations to take the lead on equitable water distribution and mobilise communities to act.
Others said those with boreholes might feel they are not affected but with the rate at which the borehole owners are using borehole water for lawns and the destruction of wetlands, acute water shortages will soon be a citywide problem.
Chisipite residents said they have not had water for 23 years while their counterparts in Glen Lorne said they last had municipal water in 2003, a good 20 years. Chisipite and Glen Lorne residents expressed their willingness to be involved in taking action to compel the city to supply them with water.