Politics of water and austerity in Zimbabwe

The Harare City council, like most other urban councils in Zimbabwe, is in the hands of the opposition – the Movement for Democratic Change – Alliance (MDC-A). To this end, there has been a trading of barbs between the ZANU-PF ruling party and the opposition pertaining to the state of poor service delivery, particularly in the opposition-run local urban councils. Although the opposition blames the central government particularly the previous Local Government Minister(s) for the (un)warranted interference and involvement in the smooth running and administration of the local urban councils. In defense the ruling party alleges that the opposition should own up to its failure to run cities, owing to its ineptitude, incapacity, and corruption.  Opposition refutes this claim. It claims urban local governments are not given enough budgetary support by the central government to effectively discharge their duties and services – including water and sewer reticulation among others. This standoff between the two political parties (ZANU-PF as the central government) and the MDC-A (the party in local government) has engendered the complexity enveloping local municipalities in the present-day Zimbabwe, that of poor or mis-governance.

It is against such a backdrop that it came as no surprise when the Harare City Council recently announced that it was facing dwindling water levels. Thus, declaring its incapacity to continue providing regular water supplies to the Harare city residents. Inasmuch, as this claim might be tempting to believe, it is difficult to sustain. The water crisis in Harare goes beyond the existing narrative of the low water volume at Lake Chivero and Manyame dams.  Even in years when Zimbabwe used to receive some relatively good rains – some suburbs were starved of the precious liquid. This explains why some suburbs have run for more than 7 years without tap water.


Harare residents queue for water at a borehole in Tafara high-density suburb, August 1, 2019, Harare, Zimbabwe (Photo by Tafadzwa Ufumeli/Getty Images)

Reverting to the issue of low water capacity, the claim is not at all convincing as earlier stated. This follows hot on the heels of yet another pronouncement by the City council officials that they had shut down the Morton Jaffray water treatment plant which provides water to Harare, Norton, Chitungwiza, and Zvimba areas, owing to the shortage of imported water treatment and purification chemicals, namely Chlorine gas. One is then left not entirely convinced on whether the closure can be attributed to low water levels or due to the unavailability of water treatment chemicals or both. However, the shutdown of this plant ignites several human rights concerns. This is taking into cognizant the fact that the Right to Water is a universally guaranteed right. For without water, there is no life, no wonder there is the adage which reads ‘Water is Life’. What is particularly worrying to note, is that even amid poor service delivery, irregular or erratic water supplies, citizens (clients/customers) are still billed by the City Councils (service provider).

On a policy level, the shutdown of the Water Treatment plant challenges the policymakers’ priorities in terms of providing clean safe and adequate water to the right holders – citizens – in relation to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Goal 6. Not only that, but it also brings to the fore questions around urban (mis-)governance in line with the principles of social accountability. But the situation is not as simple as it appears. That said, there are more complex issues bedeviling the administration of the urban local councils in Zimbabwe. Even at the backdrop of such a water crisis, which can be pronounced as a humanitarian crisis, the City councils has its priorities misplaced. The Council runs a football club and pays the coach handsomely. Not only that, but the city officials also smile all the way to the bank as they award each other hefty salaries.

To cap it all, council bureaucrats receive perks including state of the art vehicles as well as sitting and travel allowances and per diems at the expense of the lives of the ordinary citizens, the ratepayers.  But the Harare and the Chitungwiza municipalities are no strangers to controversy. In the previous years, these and other numerous local urban councils have grabbed the newspaper headlines for the wrong reasons. They have been blighted with allegations of corruption, unnecessary expenditure, inefficiency, and incompetence. Even though the MDC party went on to dissolve some of the councils and dismiss the implicated officials, the damage had already been done. The party response was akin to closing the stable door after the horse has already bolted. It, therefore, comes as no surprise that the cancer of corruption continues to fester within the Zimbabwean urban councils. More worrisome is that judging by the regularity and perverse nature of this trend, it seems corruption will not disappear any time soon.  In seeking to shelter itself from public critique, the Harare Council also lament over the ‘defaulting of ratepayers’, arguing such a practice engenders low revenue collection. To them, this then contributes to poor service delivery including refuse collection.

But the water crisis is not only an expression of such poor local governance, but it is also an expression of a local government entity trying to adapt and survive in an era of austerity. This is nowhere more evident than in the Harare City council explanation over the closure of the Morton Jaffray Water Plant. Their argument rests on the unavailability of foreign currency to import water treatment chemicals. This revelation on itself points to the broader macroeconomic challenges facing the country. Virtually, all state and non-state entities have not been spared from the prevailing austerity measures, with, of course, the exception of government’s foreign travels and luxury as well as Ministers and legislators’ opulent lifestyle.

Taken together, until and unless the government of Zimbabwe, the politicians across the political divide prioritize the right to water, citizens will continue to bear the brunt of spending long hours and nights queuing for water at the few boreholes drilled by donor agencies in high-density suburbs. In no time, such waterholes will also run dry due to the high demand for the precious liquid. Not only that, the specter of water-borne diseases, like Typhoid and Cholera, also loom large. In 2008 cholera and Typhoid claimed many lives in the Glen View and Budiriro high-density suburbs. As the saying goes, a stitch in time saves nine. Without running the risk of painting a worst-case scenario, there is no denying that without concerted pressure from citizens and residents’ associations, (humanitarian NGOs) and other social movements, the realization of the right to safe and clean water will remain a chimera in much of the Zimbabwean urban cities. In this vein, it should be underscored that choreographed short term measures and politicking by the politicians only have a limit. What is needed is a long term practical solution to the water crisis afflicting the Zimbabwean cities and towns.


Harare Town Clerk Hosiah Chisango showing President Emmerson Mnangagwa around Morton Jaffray’s Water Works

If there has been a better opportunity to act, now is the time. Citizens should stand up, demand and claim the right to safe, clean and adequate water from the local and central government as enshrined under the Zimbabwean supreme law.



MDC-Alliance and the catch 22 situation

N/B this is a late post, it was written prior to the Zimbabwean constitutional court case (ConCourt) sitting that gave a clean bill of health to the July 2018 elections in Zimbabwe.


Image result for concourt sitting in zimbabwe

ConCourt Judges


Whilst, the elections in Zimbabwe has come and gone, the ghost of the disputed elections still stare at the Zimbabwean populace. To many, the election results has been a bitter pill to swallow. This is considering that many expected the plebiscite to usher in new political players for the next five years.


The official results announced by Zimbabwe Election Commission which are disputed by the MDC-Alliance, Emmerson Mnangagwa, place the establishment candidate at 50.8% to Nelson Chamisa, opposition candidate’s 44.3% votes. The Zimbabwean opposition is at the cusp of a defining political moment. The MDC-Alliance has to make painful decisions. It has to weigh the options, whether to accept the poll results and move on. Or dispute and challenge them in the courts of law which might be a cul-de-sac. Alternatively, it may engage in extra-judicial means including mass protests. These seem unlikely given the heavy-handedness of the state and the invocation of the Public Order and Security Act.

Ghost of a disputed poll
What this election has also done is to leave a trail of a country deeply divided and in fear following the post-election episodes. The onus will be on the new President to heal and unite the nation which stands deeply divided right in between the middle. But this national healing is not going to be easy.
Again, there will be need for truth-telling, dialogue, historical accountability, remorse, justice and forgiveness. The National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) which is in existence, apart from its involvement in the signing of peace pledges prior to elections, remains largely ineffectual and silent in the wake of the state’s heavy handedness post the 30 July plebiscite.

Move on – elections are behind us
Whereas the MDC-Alliance has vowed to contest the electoral results in the courts of law and through other constitutional means, whatever that means. There is a feeling among some analysts within and outside Zimbabwe that the Alliance should move on and prepare for 2023. The ‘moving on to fight another day’ narrative is premised on the assumption that the outcome of the court rulings will not be favourable to the opposition. Predictably, going to court will legitimise and sanitise Zanu-pf’s rule. In other words, there won’t be a ‘Maraga moment’ in Zimbabwe, a situation where the Kenyan Supreme Court led by chief Justice David Maraga annulled the August 8, 2017 election results.

With the benefit of hindsight, it is important to note that previous election disputes brought before the bench by the MDC party have not yet been settled. These spawn from the year 2000 – 2002. Such a precedent then makes many sceptical on the possibilities of a favourable and timeous judgment regarding the recent polls. History has also shown that there is lack of judicial independence in most African countries. In often cases, the judiciary is beholden to the incumbent. This is nowhere more evident in Zimbabwe.

But the temptation of moving on in the wake of disputed election results is not the panacea. Rather, it is problematic insofar as it will perpetuate the continued contestation of election results in Zimbabwe. The continued failure to cure and address the opaqueness and malpractices associated with the election management body (ZEC) will still cast a dark shadow on the country’s democratic ‘tradition’. The continued disputation of Zimbabwe’s successive elections exposes the challenges of elections as avenues for democracy. Again, the events surrounding the recent polls seems to confirm the notion that Zimbabwe has not yet matured in terms of fully embracing the tenets, norms and practises of electoral democracy. Zanu-pf party however, seem hell-bent on moving on to form the next government with or without the much-vaunted endorsement.
Litigating for electoral democracy

In other jurisdictions, in Kenya following the 2007 election violence and as part of the implementation of the 2010 constitution embarked on a process of judicial reform. But, in Zimbabwe the same judiciary that has failed to settle opposition election court cases is still in situ. There too, in Kenya, during this vetting exercise of judges, one of Africa’s finest legal scholars Albie Sachs opened the discussion on what he termed ‘Who will judge the judges’.
As the MDC-Alliance challenges the poll results in the Zimbabwean courts, it remains imperative to also pose the poignant questions on ‘Who will judge the Zimbabwean judges’. Or whether the judiciary will act according to the whims and caprices of the establishment.

Strictly speaking, it does seem the elections are done and dusted. The tempting view is that the MDC-Alliance court challenge will only be one of those academic endeavours that will help set a precedent for future case laws. This is unless and if there is a ‘Maraga moment’ – a situation which is highly unlikely. This is considering prevailing concerns of the judiciary bowing down to political pressure in Zimbabwe.

If pursued, the MDC-Alliance legal route will clearly prove the intersection between ‘living law’ (law as it is) and ‘living politics’ (politics of the day).
As many waits with bated breath – hopes are that the executive interference will not influence the judicial proceedings and outcome. But again, the opposition has a burden of proving the cheat and discrepancies in the vote tally.
Be that as it may, the opposition maintains it has the V11 forms which is ample and compelling evidence to prove the claims of election ‘rigging’.
Engagement with external actors.

It seems the international community, continent and the region have become weary with the Zimbabwean saga. It will be too much to expect much from these quarters. One needs only to look at Kenya, where the African Union (AU) observer mission gave a clean bill of health to the 2017 election which were later annulled. Following the trickling of congratulatory messages, it is going to be a tall-order to pursue the narrative that the Zimbabwean election was ‘rigged’.

Zimbabwe’s Commission of Inquiry on political killings post July 30: Who will judge the Commissioners?  


Following, the shootings of 1 August 2018 in Harare, which damaged the international reputation of the newly elected Mnangagwa administration, president, Emmerson Mnangagwa went on to swear in members of a Commission of Inquiry to look into the causes and actors involved in the post-election violence. The 7 member panel Commission of Inquiry comprise of, British lawyer and Queen’s Counsel, Dixon Rodney QC, former Tanzanian defence chief Davis Mwamunyange, Nigerian former Commonwealth secretary-general Emeka Anyaoku and local professionals – lawyer and constitutional law professor, Lovemore Madhuku, political science professor, Charity Manyeruke, former Law Society of Zimbabwe president, Mrs Vimbai Nyemba and is headed by Kgalema Motlanthe (former South African president).

Commission’s Mandate

Among, other things, the Commission has to report its findings to the president within a three month time frame after the date of the swearing in of the commissioners. Critics have also raised concerns over the Commission’s Terms of reference. Some argue that it has started on a false start. This argument stems from the Commission’s terms of reference that fails to address issues of how to, identify the soldiers who fired live ammunition, and who gave them the order. As well as probing on who deployed them. Or whether, the deployment was an order from ‘above’ within the military hierarchy reaching to political figureheads

There is a groundswell of scepticism regarding whether the Commission will be able to unearth, if it is the police top-brass who called for army reinforcements to quell the protests, or not. Questions linger whether the commission will probe in whether the use of force was (dis)proportionate. So far, the Commission has not yet grappled with these unsettling questions in seeking to find satisfactory answers to human rights violations of 1 August 2018.

It is only if, the commission seize itself with these questions that Zimbabweans will build their faith regarding the sincerity of the administration in unearthing the July 30, 2018 post-election violence which left six dead. Nothing short will be a farcical act aimed at deceiving the nation, region and the globe. But, perhaps, it may be too early to judge the commission. Considering, it is still in its early stages of hearing testimonies. This far, some witnesses have given spine-chilling testimonies on how they saw their loved ones wasting following the military shooting.

Commissioners’ Conduct

The kind of probing by some Commissioners to the victims and witnesses of the 1st of August 2018 violence has also dampened public confidence in the Commission. A snippet from one, Charity Manyeruke which casts aspersions on her ‘professionalism’ is suffice:

Manyeruke: Did you see soldiers in a shooting position

Witness: Yes, they were in a shooting position

Manyeruke: What do you mean?

Witness: They were pointing their guns at people

Manyeruke: Did u see a bullet coming from the gun coming directly at people?

Witness: Not Sure. I was running away

Public scepticism

Many view the commission as compromised. This stem from its very composition. The appointment of a well-known ZANU-PF official and the leader of the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) opposition party who had earlier blamed the MDC-Alliance for the post-election violence has not helped matters in boosting public confidence in the independence and impartiality of the commissioners.

This is considering these are interested parties in the subject matter.

Taken together, this puts the sincerity, credibility and impartiality of Commission into serious doubt.

Trust deficit

Aside, from that the composition of the Commission does not inspire confidence, the opposition, MDC-Alliance has registered its misgivings over a host of other issues. They maintain it is a choreographed act to sanitise and absolve the current administration of any wrongdoing in the August 1 episodes.  Factoring these reservations one can pose whether the commission will live up to its billing in uncovering truth on the 1st of August shootings.

The trust deficit within the current Commission should be read in the broader historical context where Zimbabwe has had other commissions of Inquiry in the past. But, again such commissions’ have not been taken seriously nor were the findings disclosed for public consumption. One such is the Chihambakwe Commission of Inquiry established to look into the atrocities associated with the Gukurahundi massacres in the 1980s.

This opaqueness further stokes doubts whether the current commission’s findings will befall the same fate.

Cautious optimism and Hope

Despite having prominent personalities like Kgalema Motlanthe, there remains serious reservations on whether the Commission will be able to offer practical recommendations  which speak to post-conflict justice, truth recovery, reparations and state accountability.

For now, it defies logic why the Commission is visiting other cities, Gweru and Bulawayo and Mutare, yet the shootings occurred in Harare, the capital city.

But, after all this tinkering around, many hope that, not only must Justice be done, it must also be seen to be done.




‘African Problems to African Solutions’: Re-thinking the Role of Internal Actors in solving African Conflicts


This paper seeks to analyze the relevance and significance of the ‘African problems-to African solution’ discourse in resolving conflicts in Africa in general and Zimbabwe in particular in this 21st Century. The paper argues that many political leaders in Africa have manipulated the African solution mantra for their own political gains. In the ensuing argument I pose critical questions on whether there is an African ‘problem’ and also whether there are ‘African solutions’ to the numerous crises unfolding in Africa. African Problems to African solutions, what’s in a Phrase? One may ask. Isn’t this a matter of semantics and vocabulary? This article seeks to interrogate these and many more questions in greater depth and in detail. The paper also seeks to further analyse the role of localized conflict resolution mechanism by Africans in purely African ‘crises’.


With the mushrooming of conflicts in Africa, many questions arise. The first question…

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The Pain she Felt

She wanted to die. On many occasions she had contemplated committing suicide. She felt life was worthless. She felt humiliated. She felt used and unloved. Every time she walked, she felt the ‘entire world’ was talking about her. Whenever she passed by, women in the streets would break into giggles. She had become the talk of town. Those women who have nothing more to do other than gossiping would point fingers to her saying ‘she is the one’ (Ndiyeka uya uya). In such moments, what she all wanted was being alone. Locked in her room – crying until tears dry. Oftentimes, she would blame herself, why me, why Lord. These are part of the many questions that would torture her mind.

It was hardly two years after they had parted lives. During their happier times, Pepe and Ronny were a match made in heaven. They lived in their own love island were several emotions and passions lived. Theirs, was a tale of love with endless limits. As the Shona adage goes, everything will come to an end, surely the end of Pepe and Ronny came earlier than expected. But, it was not the ending that pained Pepe to the core and marrow of her heart. The way how it ended hurt her most.

It was on a Thursday morning, the clouds were drifting westwards. That day it seemed it would rain cats and dogs. However, there was a heavy whirlwind that seemed to have literally chased the rains away. Like any other women in love, Pepe, wished to hear his boyfriend wishing her happy birthday. Although, birthdays were not that much celebrated in this part of the world. Nonetheless, Pepe always made it a point to celebrate her birthday in style. She woke up in high spirits, humming her favorite gospel song ‘Mwari muri mubatsiri vangu’ (Oh Lord you are My Helper). However, events turned topsy-turvy. On a day that promised to be a memorable and enjoyable one, things turned otherwise. Why why Ronny, why could Ronny do such a thing to me, but why? The pain she felt, all the years together…..To be continued…..

Mai Tira


He flung the door open. He was dead drunk. From his breath one could pick that he had been drinking the popular spirit Krango.He could hardly stand. Baba Tira was a married man aged 34, but due to heavy drinking he looked older than his age. He was that kind of a dude who would come home dead drunk and unashamedly would pick a fight with his wife. Baba Tira received every respect that would come from an obedient, subservient, oppressed, vulnerable, powerless and understanding woman. He was a typical traditional and African man – who believed in wife bashing as a sign of macho.

Baba Tira would at times pick a fight over silly issues, that include but are not limited to ‘too much’ or ‘too little’ cooking oil in the relish. At times Mai Tira would be bashed for putting ‘too little’ salt in the relish. All…

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Eulogy to My Dad


A man who loved his bottle with a passion
Its only but mere memories now
You fought a long battle,
But, the Lord saw it fit
And decided that your time was up

You fought a good fight,

We only hope that your soul has found eternal peace
A man who believed in his ideas
A man who believed in doing things quicker and faster
A man who believed in sharing and giving
But when you passed on
Relatives and friends quickly forgot
Such is the naked cruel nature of life
They loved you
Not for whom you were
But they loved your money

When we least expected you would leave us
When we thought you were on the full road to recovery
But in you, you had already given up
You constantly appealed to God to rest your soul
For your flesh was in deep pain
For you were…

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Tale of Kuda


Each day brought its fair share of challenges. Most of the times he would go home wearing a sad face. At times when lady luck could smile on him – he would go home with a smile on his face. At such a young age he had mastered the art of doing business. The challenges of orphan hood had thrown him into the deep end. His parents had passed on in the late 1990s due to the HIV/AIDS scourge. Such a tragic event occurred at a time when it used to be taboo mentioning about the deadly pandemic either behind closed doors or in public. These were the years when songs were sung about HIV/AIDS being a deadly killer disease. Various singers ranging from Charles Charamba, Oliver Mtukudzi, Dino Mudondo and others belted songs that spoke of the ravaging effect of the pandemic.

Many years had rushed into each other…

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The Africa we Have-The Africa we Dream Of

The Africa we Have-The Africa we Dream Of



Why are some nations rich? Why is Africa poor? What is our problem? Where do we find a solution? Why are our people poor? Is there equality? Is there justice? Is there fairness? Are the judges fair and just? Why are African politicians rich? Why are the masses poor? Why are we dying of Hunger, malnutrition and cholera in Africa? Are we cursed? Why are we suffering from cholera?  Is it that our health facilities are so backward? Why are we dying of HIV/AIDS at such an alarming rate? Are we so addicted to sex life?

Why are we still fighting after years of decolonization? Why do we fight amongst ourselves? Are we civilized or not? Why do we need soldiers in our nations? Are we truthful about one another? Where is the tax payers’ money going? Why do leaders live in state of the art mansions, whilst others sleep…

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When Everything Becomes Strange


The hen had run across the road. The elders always believed that such was an indication and signal of an imminent bad omen. The bus was packed to the brim. We were packed like sardines. You could hardly straighten your back. It was Christmas holiday. Most people were travelling from the City to the Village.
The very same evening the owls were hooting unendlessly. I was so frightened. The dogs had been backing continuously. Having had spend much time in the city – I was a stranger in my own village just like Lucifer in Charles Mungoshi’s Waiting for the Rain. That night I could not catch sleep, images of ghosts and the fear of witches kept on crossing my mind.
Maybe someone had cast a bad omen – to my home come.
The next morning I woke up feeling so exhausted. All the elders from our village were gathered…

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