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Waiting for water

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Tafadzwa Sharaunga writing for Kalabash shares his experience of queuing for water.

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Dead in the middle of the rainy season water shortages have ravaged the southwestern high-density suburbs of Harare, with neighborhoods such as Glen-View and Glen-Norah going for days without running tap water.

After an infamous five-day spell without running water I decided to go to the nearest watering hole. My brother and I arrived at the borehole at 11:22 pm. To our surprise it was heavily occupied (mostly by teenagers who were using ‘fetching water’ for mischievous activities).

Yielding to the challenge presented to us by the long, winding queue we decided to go home and return during the graveyard shift starting at 3:00 am. We trotted home like donkeys after a long day’s work, thirsty and tired as ever.  I woke up at 3:45 am and my brother was in a deep sleep. I tried to wake him up to no avail, off into the night alone it was. Eager to get some water as fast as possible my pace increased by the second, approaching the corner loud chatting became audible.

“Ndiani uyo urikuenda kupi manheru akadai?” Numb for a moment, they quickly noticed the bucket in my hand. The lady said ‘’Aah arikuenda ku borehole!’’

‘’You are lucky.’’ one of the guys shouted.

Arriving at the water point all I could think of was how all these women had gotten here, that scare was enough to deter anyone who is thirsty from going to fetch water at night. It was dark and there were about 30 women. I counted only five men, myself included. As the complexion of the night got lighter so did the mood amongst us, the queue grew longer and the talk louder. Jokes about poverty and how the people in the city council should get a feel of the system they run. The dominant fear of being out and unprotected at night was ever so present among the women as they kept referring to the darkness and its uncertainty.

Two men emerged from that darkness, one tall and the other medium height. They had placed their buckets in line and started trading political campaign stories. How they campaigned for a certain MP but forgot to vote for him when elections came. One of them sounded sad saying how it would have been good had they spent energy doing something for the benefit of the community rather than their selfish interests.

As the sun came out of its resting place the 100-metre queue came into full view. Almost time to go to work but I had no water to bath with so I waited in line for three more hours until it was my turn.

I was not the only person going to work that morning. I realized that after we have dressed to go to work it’s not visible who has slept at the borehole or in the luxury of a King or Queen size bed. We have become the ultimate masters of disguise: instead of telling our story we choose to stifle it and betray our own confidence.

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