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Mzembi said it was a mistake to take over Harare water supply

The Deputy Minister of Water Resources and Development Walter Mzembi told United States embassy officials in January 2009 that it was a mistake for the government to take over the Harare water supply saying this was a directive from President Robert Mugabe.

He said the Zimbabwe National Water Authority had taken over from the Harare City Council because Mugabe and his other Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front leaders believed that water was a national asset to be managed by the government.

Mzembi said this was a mistake. There could be national ownership, but efficient delivery systems were possible only with local control.

He said he had pointed this out to Mugabe and hoped there would be a change in policy.

 

Full cable:


Viewing cable 09HARARE39, NO END IN SIGHT TO HARARE’S WATER PROBLEMS

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Reference ID

Created

Released

Classification

Origin

09HARARE39

2009-01-14 14:23

2011-08-30 01:44

UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY

Embassy Harare

VZCZCXRO6636

OO RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHJO RUEHMR RUEHRN

DE RUEHSB #0039/01 0141423

ZNR UUUUU ZZH

O 141423Z JAN 09

FM AMEMBASSY HARARE

TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3920

INFO RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY COLLECTIVE

RUEHAR/AMEMBASSY ACCRA 2546

RUEHDS/AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA 2668

RUEHRL/AMEMBASSY BERLIN 1161

RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 1937

RUEHDK/AMEMBASSY DAKAR 2292

RUEHKM/AMEMBASSY KAMPALA 2717

RUEHNR/AMEMBASSY NAIROBI 5145

RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC

RUZEJAA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK

RHMFISS/EUCOM POLAD VAIHINGEN GE

RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC

RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 1828

RHEHAAA/NSC WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 04 HARARE 000039

 

SENSITIVE

SIPDIS

 

AF/S FOR B. WALCH

DRL FOR N. WILETT

ADDIS ABABA FOR USAU

ADDIS ABABA FOR ACSS

STATE PASS TO USAID FOR E. LOKEN AND L. DOBBINS

STATE PASS TO NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR B. PITTMAN

TREASURY FOR D. PETERS AND T.RAND

 

E.O. 12958: N/A

TAGS: ECON PREL ASEC PHUM PGOV ZI

SUBJECT: NO END IN SIGHT TO HARARE’S WATER PROBLEMS

 

——-

SUMMARY

——-

 

1. (SBU) Harare’s water and sewer systems are antiquated and

can no longer cope with the city’s expansion. The problems

worsened in 2006 when the Zimbabwe National Water Authority

(ZINWA) took over the administration of water and sewer

reticulation from the city of Harare. In recent years,

intermittent power supplies, treatment chemical shortages,

and low investment levels in the sector have resulted in a

near collapse of the system, culminating in the recent

outbreak of cholera. Given the relative success recorded in

Bulawayo, where the city council is responsible for water

distribution, a return of water and sewer reticulation

responsibility to the Harare city council offers the best

hope for the current problems to be eased. Without

significant capital investment, however, supply will fail to

meet demand. END SUMMARY.

 

———————————

Water Delivery Steadily Worsening

———————————

 

2. (SBU) Harare’s water delivery system has steadily

degraded over the past 10 years to the point that now both

affluent and poor neighborhoods are either not receiving

water, or only receiving intermittent supplies. Wealthier

residents have long since resorted to deep wells, while the

less fortunate rely on sporadic piped water, shallow wells,

or even standing pools. The government is wholly incapable

of dealing with the problem. This incapacity was highlighted

on December 1 when the government was forced to close down

the main pumping station, cutting off water to the entire

city, including the central business district. By midday

most companies and government departments had sent workers

home for lack of water.

 

———————–

Demand Outstrips Supply

———————–

 

3. (SBU) According to Bernard Poko, the operations manager

of ZINWA, Harare’s water problems reflect a mismatch between

insufficient supply and growing demand for water due to years

of under-investment in the sector and the rapid geographic

expansion of Harare’s city limits. Engineer Poko told econ

specialist on December 5, 2008 that, even when pumping at

full capacity with adequate supplies of treatment chemicals,

the waterworks can only produce 600 mega liters (ML) of water

per day, compared with current demand of 1,000 ML per day.

He said that the waterworks are currently pumping well below

capacity, although production levels vary daily depending on

availability of electricity, chemicals, and spare parts.

Poko said that the creation of new Harare suburbs such as

ZimRe Park, Kuwadzana Extension, and Sunway City, had

exceeded the capacity of Harare’s waste disposal and water

reticulation delivery systems.

 

————————–

ZINWA Bears Brunt of Blame

————————–

 

4. (SBU) Harare’s water problems worsened when ZINWA took

over the administration of water and sewer reticulation from

the municipality in December 2006. Previously residents had

never endured months without running water. According to

Simbarashe Moyo, the Chairman of the Combined Harare

Residents Associations (CHRA), ZINWA lacks both the financial

 

HARARE 00000039 002 OF 004

 

 

and technical capacity to manage the mammoth task at hand. A

simple repair to a pump requires a financial allocation from

ZINWA’s parent ministry, the Ministry of Water Resources and

Development. This degree of bureaucracy has led to the

popular perception that ZINWA is inept.

 

5. (SBU) By contrast, in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe’s second largest

city, the city council is still responsible for providing

water to residents and, except during periods of drought,

water interruptions are rare. A well connected

Bulawayo-based businessman, Robert Sigauke, commented to econ

specialist that the city council made water decisions in a

timely and efficient manner. Additionally, the Bulawayo

council receives considerable third-party donations from

international NGOs, unlike the parastatal ZINWA.

 

6. (SBU) The Deputy Minister of Water Resources and

Development, Walter Mzembi told polecon chief on January 8

that ZINWA had taken over from the Harare council because

Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe and other ZANU-PF leaders

believed water was a national asset to be managed by the

government. Mzembi said this was a mistake; there could be

national ownership, but efficient delivery systems were

possible only with local control. He noted he had made this

point in a recent meeting with Mugabe, and he was hopeful

there would be a change in policy.

 

——————————————

There is an Acute Shortage of Chemicals…

——————————————

 

7. (SBU) Poko told us that water production is determined by

the availability of chemicals to treat the raw reservoir

water. While some of the chemicals are imported and require

payment in foreign currency, the main chemical, aluminum

sulphate, is locally produced by the government-owned company

Zimphos. Poko told us that Zimphos cannot meet ZINWA’s need

for 140 tons per day. In contrast, Rongai Makwavarara, the

operations manager at Zimphos, said the plant could produce

up to 200 tons of aluminum sulphate per day. Makwavarara

attributed ZINWA’s lack of adequate stocks of chemicals to

the parastatal’s failure to pay for the product on time.

 

8. (SBU) Embassy contacts informed us that UNICEF began a

four-month program in December to supplement water treatment

chemicals to urban centers, including Harare. The practice

of trucking water is extremely expensive and is only used as

a last resort in response to emergency conditions.

 

————

…and Power

————

 

9. (SBU) Engineer Poko also said that water production is

limited by power outages due to the Zimbabwe Electricity

Supply Authority’s inability to either produce or import

sufficient electricity for the country’s needs. He conceded

that power shortages had not been a major problem at the

waterworks in the past four weeks.

 

————————————-

Pumps Are Obsolete and Pipes Worn Out

————————————-

 

10. (SBU) Poko also said that ZINWA water production has

been constrained by breakdowns caused by the age of Harare’s

water reticulation system and lack of investment. The

pumping equipment at both the Morton Jaffrey waterworks and

the different distribution water mains around Harare are over

 

HARARE 00000039 003 OF 004

 

 

50 years old and well past their useful economic life. The

situation is worsened by the lack of foreign currency for

spare parts. As a result, there are constant breakdowns.

 

11. (SBU) Poko added that the age of the pipes is giving

rise to the loss of treated water through numerous leaks in

and around Harare. Mzembi told us that ZINWA loses up to

half of all treated water through pipe bursts. According to

Mzembi, just last week nearly 300 pipe bursts were reported

to ZINWA. Poko told us that replacing the pumping equipment

without laying new pipes would result in even more leaks, as

the old pipes could not withstand the increased pressure from

new pumping equipment. Although he said that replacing pumps

and pipes would have cost Z$45 billion (about US$9 million at

the time) in January 2007, he was unwilling to provide cost

estimates at current prices.

 

———————-

Low Capital Investment

———————-

 

12. (SBU) Poko told us that resolution of these problems

would require a large capital injection. However, in view of

the current economic crisis, the government cannot afford the

outlay, and he does not expect water supplies to improve. He

added that because water fees have been held constant over

the past seven months, they are completely eroded by

hyperinflation. However, he does not believe that low water

fees are wholly resonsible for the low capital investment.

He told s that in the 1980s and 1990s investment in water n

Zimbabwe came from donors, including the WorldBank. (NOTE:

Poko told economic specialist on Jauary 8 that ZINWA has now

been allowed to chargecommercial clients in foreign currency

while resdential consumers will continue to pay in Zimbabwe

dollars. END NOTE.)

 

13. (SBU) As a result o not paying competitive salaries,

the parastatal has experienced a massive exodus of skilled

workes. Poko said that the few experienced workers who

remain are doing their best under difficult conditions.

 

—————–

Coping Strategies

—————–

 

14. (SBU) Harare’s water woes have forced residents to

devise a number of coping strategies including the use of

shallow wells in high-density areas and boreholes–deep

wells–in more affluent suburbs. According to Poko, the use

of shallow wells is one of the major factors contributing to

the current outbreak of cholera in Harare. To stop people

from using shallow wells, ZINWA, with the help of UNICEF,

trucked water to residents of areas that have a high

prevalence of cholera, such as Glen View and Budiriro. Poko

told us that in addition to the use of tank trucks, ZINWA

also connects taps to some water points for use by residents

during the day but removes them at night for fear of

vandalism.

 

15. (SBU) Poko told us that the cholera outbreak forced

government to set up a ministerial committee on December 1,

2008 charged with providing residents with clean water. He

said the committee was busy looking for resources to purchase

chemicals and called for impromptu meetings on almost a daily

basis to review progress. According to Poko, progress will

be limited because the committee is not able to conduct the

complete overhaul required.

 

——-

 

HARARE 00000039 004 OF 004

 

 

COMMENT

——-

 

16. (SBU) The government of Zimbabwe has been grossly

derelict in its duty to provide its residents with drinkable

water, resulting in the cholera crisis that has claimed

almost 2,000 lives nationwide and about 400 in

Harare/Chitungwiza. Perhaps most egregious was the

politically-motivated decision to take control of water

delivery from local councils, thereby capturing water

revenues and exerting ZANU-PF control over yet another

resource. The relative success of cities that managed to

hang onto their own water management–such as Bulawayo and

Masvingo–highlights ZINWA’s failure and should provide a

compelling argument that control must be returned to local

councils. END COMMENT.

 

MCGEE

(34 VIEWS)

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