Gweru councilors have complained about campaigning politicians who are drilling boreholes in the city without the local authority’s approval, an objection widely believed is targeted at ZANU PF.
ZANU PF`s candidate for the March 2022 Mkoba constituency parliamentary by-elections William Gondo has embarked on a programme to drill at least 10 boreholes in various parts of the city and has drilled five to date.
But, Gweru councillors, speaking during a council meeting, said they are not happy with the development and feel the ZANU PF politician was not following the right procedure in drilling the boreholes and was putting the health of residents at risk.
According to Danny Ndaba, the councillor for Ward 14, anyone intending to drill boreholes in Gweru should seek approval from the city council.
“We are not against development but anyone who brings it should do it in a proper way and we tell them you can go and drill (borehole) here. This issue perhaps we can talk to the DA (now District Development Coordinator), I don`t know how we can deal with it.”
He added: “You don`t just come and drill a borehole anywhere you want because you have some political muscle.”
Albert Chirau, the councillor for Ward 11, said it is important for the council management to test the water to ensure that it is safe for drinking.
“Did you do the post-test that is that water safe for drinking, is that borehole at a place convenient for our residents to drink? That is critical.”
Cllr Chirau said the council`s health department should conduct the necessary tests on the water to determine if it is safe to drink.
However, the ZANU PF candidate, Gondo, said his intention was only to make sure residents accessed clean and safe water.
“I came up with a 45-day plan after the nomination court. The biggest challenge we have in Gweru we identified was that access to clean water is a huge problem in Gweru and we have now drilled five boreholes, after setting a target of ten boreholes.”
Gweru was in 2018 hit by a Typhoid outbreak that killed at least eight people, according to health authorities. The city council attributed the outbreak to boreholes, which they said sewer water had seeped into the borehole catchment area.
The outbreak prompted the Environmental Management Agency to test some of the borehole water for salmonella typhi, the bacteria that causes typhoid, leading to the city council decommissioning some boreholes for contamination.
Recently, the Gweru City Council partnered with a multinational developmental organisation, Welthungerhilfe (WHH) to roll out five water kiosks that are solar-powered and the water is treated through chemicals. According to the council, the kiosks are meant to ensure residents access clean and safe borehole water.
Responding to questions from residents during a WhatsApp indaba on water, the chairperson for the Housing and Community Services, Ward 18 councillor John Manyundwa said the water kiosks allowed for water to be treated so that it is safe from contamination.
“It`s actually a mini water treatment plant if you see it and it is actually something that is very good. Secondly, it is to bring cleaner water to the residents because the dangerous thing about water-borne diseases is that it (bacteria) can start affecting you after 20 years such that you would not know what is happening to you.”
He said there was bad publicity around the water kiosks because of misinformation and disinformation by some residents and interested parties.
The council has been accused of ‘selling’ borehole water, as the kiosks charge at least ZW$10 per 20-litre container of water. A resident in January dragged the council to court for ‘commercialising’ a public resource and wanted the water kiosk project stopped.
According to Manyundwa, the benefits of accessing water from the kiosks far outweighed the cost residents were asked to incur.
“The 10 bond is being used to buy filters and for those taking care of the boreholes to maintain it. Look at our free boreholes, two, three days it has broken down and you get there you find very long queues,” he said.
Manyundwa said that residents who could not afford to buy water from the kiosks had the option to use the free boreholes. The councilor added that the kiosks provided residents with convenience, where when they draw water from the traditional boreholes they spend the whole day in queues.