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Archive for the 'Shortages and Inflation' Category

Why bother paying for water if you don’t get any?

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Friday, June 14th, 2013 by Bev Clark

We asked for your feedback on Mayor Masunda saying that the water crisis in Zimbabwe will be alleviated if residents coughed up their dollars on time and paid their bills.

Here is what some of you think:

It’s true, I am already doing that, I make sure every month-end I pay my bills on time.

In my own view the principal running cities and towns should put our health first. What is the use of Government subsidies in our country? If people are not able to pay rates it means all is difficult for residents. Let municipality cut on the rates and put affordable rates, which people can afford, and government intervene through the use of subsidies, and utilizing taxes they are collecting from people. Many residents are suffering from stomach disease due to unclean and unsafe water they are drinking yet our own Mayor talks about water supply as a luxury or a want just like DSTV and cell phone airtime top-up. It is not every resident that subscribes to DSTV. It is his duty as a city Mayor to care for the health of the residents. We support our principals; all we want is them to create better living conditions for the residents and raise up the standard of living of society not for another time, but Now.

It is unfortunate that we may laugh at the Mayor but he is telling the truth. People pay for their cell phones because if you do not pay you cannot phone. If you do not subscribe to DSTV you cannot view any channels. If at all there was, or is a way of doing the same thing with water and other services offered by the City of Harare I do not think we wouldn’t have anyone failing to pay for services rendered. However, the next thing would be to find a way to stop pilferage of funds because with everyone paying it means thousands (if not millions) of dollars are up for grabs.

This is a lame excuse – at least they should demonstrate their commitment by cutting down on some of their expenditures. City council fathers are well known for giving themselves hefty salaries and allowances. We have been hearing that same story for many years. If they can account for all the payments being done this can make a difference.

The Mayor was simply being Dramatic in expressing a very important point that affects everyone and people should not read too much into it and get the sense that until they start getting their priorities right, clean and regular water supplies remain a pipe dream. Being dramatic is in fact a mark of good leadership. The Mayor comes across to me saying this is a problem, which affects the public and should therefore involve the public in its solution. Simple.  So the people’s Mayor is simply putting the public problem and its public solution in perspective. Thumbs up.

If that is the case we are guaranteed of never seeing an end to these water problems. Ratepayers do not pay because there is no service to pay for NOT because they do not want water. Right now there is no guarantee that water will flow in your tap if you settle your bills, so why bother?

Hey, show me the water!

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Monday, May 20th, 2013 by Marko Phiri

Virtually every corner of Zimbabwe has huge challenges concerning access to clean water, and despite all talk about the country committing itself to meeting its MDG targets with 2015 fast approaching, it is quite a statement to hear a woman ask the Harare mayor, “can you tell us if the water in our taps is safe to drink!”

The UN says you cannot separate water from all the Millennium Development Goals, it thus has to be asked that in a country where water has become such a very emotional issue because of its regular absence in our taps, what then does this say about the country meeting all the eight MDGs?

But then, this question is rhetorical as it is on record that we are off the mark on many of these fronts.

I was given a jolt, recalling that water treatment chemicals have been hard to come by for big cities such as Bulawayo, and for someone to pose that question, “can you tell us if the water in our taps is safe to drink?” says a lot about the downward spiral of service provision in this country in the past decade.

The occasion was a Quill Speak at the Ambassador Hotel and it was themed “The water supply crisis in Harare – what is the solution?”

The Harare mayor, 59 months on the job he said, attempted to provide insights into the mother city’s water headaches, but like many public officials in this country never seemed to have anything new to say other than what has become a well-worn motif: we don’t have the money.

Someone asked where then the mayor expects to get the money, and it was then that for me he provided a useful insight about what has gone wrong in this once romanticized “great African hope” back in the euphoria of 1980.

Council could raise funds for its service provision obligations such as the ever-snowballing water sector migraines by issuing municipal bonds, but this last happened in the 1990s before the dollar crashed in 1997, the mayor explained.

It is explained elsewhere “municipal bonds are securities that are issued for the purpose of financing the infrastructure needs of the issuing municipality.”

But in a country where everything has been blamed on the voodoo economics of Zanu PF, municipal bonds also became a victim; simply meaning that local authorities could not sustain themselves, raise their own revenue outside payment of bills by residents.

Yet resident associations have criticized these municipalities of trying to run their cities with money collected from bills, which is an impossible proposition.

It explains why virtually every council in this country is broke, with residents being forced to live with the reality of disease outbreak right on their door steps.

We only have the 2008 cholera outbreak as a painful example, which Sikhanyiso Ndlovu claimed back then and without any hint of tongue-in-cheek was part of a biological-chemical warfare unleashed by Zimbabwe’s enemies, when everyone else knew its genesis.

Another lady asked the Mayor why she should bother paying her bills when she hardly gets any water, a question that has been asked everywhere but has not elicited any convincing response from the local authorities.

It is a telling indictment that amidst all these questions, Zimbabweans find themselves being part of the 783 million people UN Water says do not have access to safe drinking water, and these are people living not in the rural outback, but in the city of Harare!

Passing laws in blackouts

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Wednesday, May 8th, 2013 by Lenard Kamwendo

Zimbabwe’s sole power utility hopes to save electricity by influencing behavior change in electricity consumption through pre-paid meters. Pre-paid meters could be a solution to the billing shambles consumers had to face from ZESA but in the long run demand is already surpassing supply – something which is not going to be solved with energy saver bulbs and pre-paid meters. Giving energy saver bulbs to consumers will work only if there is electricity to save otherwise it’s a waste of resources. The nation needs to work on alternative sources of energy and allow the private sector to venture into power generation and stop relying on imports. The recent passing of a statutory instrument allowing high-end electricity consumers to purchase their own prepaid meters will ease the burden of procuring pre-paid meters by the nation’s struggling sole power utility, ZESA. The company has been enjoying a huge monopoly over electricity distribution in the country and it is failing to meet the increasing electricity demands, which has resulted in massive blackouts nationwide.

Corruption and misconduct at Universities

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Wednesday, May 8th, 2013 by Elizabeth Nyamuda

I attended university during a period where going to school seemed like wasting one’s precious time and adding more strain on family’s financial budgets. This was the period of 2006-2010 where Zimbabwe went through a major economic downfall, the 2008 elections and the dollarisation of the currency – a very difficult period. It did appear much better for one to quit school and cross the border to a neighbouring country as they would be guaranteed of access to their needs and wants. It is during this period that corruption within the various systems in the university grew like it was growing in any other sector in the country. You could see how people would manipulate the system because of a certain commodity they held, which was in demand. You would be shocked to hear what a lecturer would do when promised a bag of maize. As the economy got better with goods and commodities available, corruption, like cancer, still existed.

Students in Kenya and Uganda have established an anonymous website, Not In My Country which seeks to expose acts of corruption within universities in these two countries. By acting as whistle blowers, students rate their lecturers’ performances and have an optional field to explain their ratings. These are crowd sourced to provide ratings. In South Africa, university students at Wits are using the university newspaper, Vuvuzela, to expose lecturers who engage in misconduct in their work through sexual harassment. Students all over have been using various media to expose corruption within their universities but these are only effective if the university’s authorities take up their responsibility by investigating matters reported. Systems run by students often fall short as university staff protect each other as investigations or follow ups on reported cases are not made.

Workers Day commemorations in Zimbabwe about political mileage

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Thursday, May 2nd, 2013 by Lenard Kamwendo

The Workers’ Day theme at Gwanzura stadium was “Workers under siege, organize unite and fight on” – indeed workers in Zimbabwe are under siege from politicians who have hijacked the event to further their interests. If workers have nothing to lose but their chains like what Karl Max said in his literature, maybe its high time Workers Day in Zimbabwe is left to workers and free from politics. Sloganeering and empty promises from civic society activists who are trying to transform into political parties were the only major highlights of the day for those who braved yesterday’s chilly morning weather. Instead of addressing bread and butter issues for the workers most labor organizations have aligned themselves to various political parties and workers have been left wondering if the occasion had been turned into a political gathering. To lead a labor organization is now a one-way ticket to political stardom and this has lead to massive splits in the labor movement in the country as noted by the contestations for donor funds yet the marginalized worker continues to rely on empty promises of decent wages and better working conditions. The government has also taken advantage of these disorganized labor movements by refusing to come to the negotiating table hiding under the disguise of demanding legitimate workers representatives from labor unions. The same politicians who were propelled into power through a labor backed party now seem to be enjoying the sweet benefits of power and have turned out to be the oppressors. One aspiring politician reminded workers who assembled at Raylton Sports Club yesterday to never trust politicians and later used the same platform to announce intentions of launching a political party!

Normalizing the situation

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Thursday, April 11th, 2013 by Lenard Kamwendo

The trend of poor service delivery by the local authorities and public institutions in Zimbabwe has reached alarming levels such that it has become a normal situation to get things like tap water from council after weekly intervals. It is now an acceptable trend to have excessive electricity load shedding every day and receive high bills at the end of the month. Boreholes and wells are now common features in every household and the sound of a generator is no longer a nuisance but music to people’s ears. When it rains be prepared to get an extra charge on commuter fares from the commuter omnibus operators. To get medical treatment for your loved one from the few doctors left in local hospitals a token of appreciation does the trick otherwise you will have to deal with long queues in the crowded corridors of short staffed hospitals. Customer care no longer exists in many shops as the non-refundable and no exchange disclaimer reminds you that what you are buying is inferior. But to many people to be shortchanged is not a normal situation.