15-year Dangamvura water crisis: Hope on the horizon for long suffering residents

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MUTARE – It is 15 years since water stopped flowing out of tapes at Morgan Saungweme’s house in Area 3 Extension, Dangamvura high density suburb in Mutare City located in the eastern border of Zimbabwe.

His 15-year-old daughter, Carol, has never seen water coming out from the tape at his father’s house. She has grown accustomed to fetching water from the communal borehole and other unsafe water sources.

For all her life, young Carol is only habituated to spending long hours every day in a queue at the borehole that sometimes becomes violent, as desperate residents hunt for the precious liquid.  

The Saungweme family is part of hundreds of Dangamvura residents that have endured many years of dry taps a poignant situation that has resulted in the violating of their right to water, sanitation and health.

But, underneath the water crisis lies hope for the residents to shower, as the Mutare City council has amplified the suburb’s water pipeline project.

Council said the project is set to be completed in April this year.

The project was previously initiated in 2007 and eventually stopped in 2012 following a botched water pipes deal that saw a named company failing to supply and fix water pipes that could have helped alleviate water woes in the high density suburb.

Investigations by Zim Morning Post revealed that the company also supplied wrong pipes, 450mm asbestos cement water pipes, which would not withhold high water pressure.

Further investigations revealed that the project was done under the supervision of a mere plumber.

The sources further said by then the council had not employed a substantive City Engineer. 

Mutare City Council spokesperson Spren Mutiwi said the council had taken delivery of the new correct pipes.

“Some of the (wrong) 450mm asbestos cement water pipes have not been properly laid with respect to joining and minimum depth, hence, we are exposing some sections and re-working them,” he said.

“Since the resumption of the project in September 2020, the pipes delivered last year were actually for replacing the asbestos cement that had been laid earlier because these pipes would have failed under water pressure, hence, the replacement of the pipes with PN32 GRP pipes,” Mutiwi added.

Mutiwi said the African Development Bank (ADB) administered the Zimbabwe Multi-Donor Trust Fund (ZimFund) project that will supply pipes and fittings to the tune of us$543 00.

“Central Government recently disbursed about US$30 000 and has promised to disburse another US$20 000.  The Mutare City Council has so far disbursed an equivalent of US$155 000 and is still to raise another US$308 000 in 2021 (including contingencies) for additional materials, execution of works to complete the project, which include additional waterline for attainment of 24hrs supply,” said Mutiwi.

He said the council was facing fund-raising challenges.

“We have challenges on fundraising especially in the pandemic induced lockdown. We have somehow contained the skills-fight challenge by giving special allowance to contract project staff working on the project,” he explained.

The United Mutare Residents and Ratepayers Trust (UMRRT) Programs Manager Edison Dube said the laying of wrong pipes was a sign of incompetence on the part of the council.

“This is poor workmanship. The council is reckless and careless. They know ratepayers are struggling to pay their dues and they pass that cost (of exhuming the wrongly laid pipes) on the overburdened ratepayers,” said Dube.

Mutiwi, however, explained that the funding of the exhumation of the pipes will be funded under the ZIMFUND model.

Saungweme only hopes that this time they would be showering in Dangamvura.

“We have endured very long periods without water and we only hope that this time nothing will derail the project. We now call on the project to be sped up because as residents, we are so desperate for water,” said Saungweme.

“We are willing to see water coming out from our tapes. We cannot wait for this and we want to believe that the projection by the council would come into reality,” said another resident Miriam Chinaka.

The task of gathering water has completely consumed the Dangamvura people’s lives, but, the residents are so optimistic that the revived water project will soothes them.

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