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Majestic ... An aerial view of the Victoria Falls which has reopened to the public

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Next to Zambezi, Vic Falls goes thirsty

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ELENA Ncube (31) walks more than five kilometres to access water at a Victoria Falls council-run reservoir in Chinotimba suburb, as her area has gone for eight months without supplies of piped water. She says everyday she wakes up as early as 5am from Ward 11’s Mfelandawonye suburb in order to queue with others at the reservoir.

NOKUTHABA DLAMINI

“On many occasions, we have met elephants and buffalos along the way as we walk from our area to the reservoir, but we have no other choice because our area has no water,” Ncube says.

The problem faced by Mfelandawonye also affects families in other parts of the ward, including Garikai, BC847 and Mkhosana. The grotesque irony is that the people live approximately six kilometres away from the Zambezi River, Africa’s fourth-longest river.

Their frustrations erupted during an all-stakeholders’ pre-budget meeting in the council chambers.

They blamed the crisis on council’s failure to regulate low-density private lodges that have mounted as much as 10 water tanks per property, making it difficult for Mkhosana high-density residents to access water, as they share the reservoir with low-density residents.

Many of the properties are houses which were converted to lodges. “People are struggling to access water in Mkhosana and we are disappointed that as council you know very well that you have no reservoirs for Mkhosana residents, yet you keep giving these sprouting lodges rights to mount 10 000-litre Jojo tanks,” Christopher Ndiweni from Mayelane Tours confronted council management led by the town clerk Ronnie Dube.

Another resident said: “These lodges have mounted about 10 Jojo tanks each on their premises and, as a result, residents have failed to draw water because whenever water is available, those people first have their tanks automatically filled while the rest of the residents in these high-density suburbs fail to get water.

“It is up to you as council to monitor such unfair trends and make sure that you provide adequate water to every ratepayer without looking at the setting.” In response, council advised residents to submit their suggestions regarding the regularisation of private water tanks as the practice was not stipulated in any law.

Ncube has witnessed first hand how women and children bear the brunt of water shortages.

“I usually go with my children, while my husband remains sleeping. Even at the tank where we fetch the leaking water from, most of the people there will be women and children and that has put us into so many risks including being run over by cars or being gored or trampled by elephants or buffalos. It is scary and our wish is to have a reservoir built for us in order to avoid water challenges.”

The city of Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe’s tourism crown jewel, has suffered perennial water shortages. The local authority says it inherited obsolete raw water abstraction and pumping infrastructure from the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa).

 Council won the tussle for the control of water infrastructure early this year after the government’s intervention, but soon after obtaining the full control, Zinwa hiked the water charges to ZW$4.5 million per month from ZW$1.1 million. Council officials say the pricing, obsolete infrastructure together and the high cost of electricity for pumping water are the reasons why residents like Ncube are struggling to access clean and safe water in the comfort of their homes. Council proposes to spend ZW$1.9 billion in next year’s budget.

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