By The Solutions Tower Staff
ZIMBABWE’S political independence came after a protracted liberation struggle. The political leadership of the liberation movements organised, mass mobilised and rallied the black citizenry, and sustainably fought against a repressive white minority which had sophisticated weaponry and a strong bureaucracy that entrenched the marginalisation of the black majority.
Zimbabweans acknowledge the supreme sacrifices made by the dedicated men and women who took arms and dethroned the repressive regime that had kept the majority bonded to the periphery of political activity. Attainment of political independence alone does not translate to the realisation of human rights, human dignity and freedom for the ordinary citizens.
The nationalists focused mainly on wrestling power from the then minority regime to a black majority regime, while the masses wanted a revolutionary system that would place them at the heart of the governance system in Zimbabwe. These dreams remain alive for the majority today as they try to find their own feet against all odds.
According to Mhanda (2005), the purpose for which the liberation struggle was waged was “articulated as a struggle for self-determination, democracy, freedom, social justice, human dignity and peace. These encapsulated the hopes and aspirations of the indigenous African people of Zimbabwe”.
The struggles of the residents in urban areas have a distinct mark to them – they are fighting to be treated with human dignity, and the authorities are expected to deal with them in a fair and democratic manner, regardless of social or economic status.
Mhanda (2005) argues that during the liberation struggle, the educated and enlightened African nationalists in Zimbabwe were waging a war that was different from the poor peasants in rural areas who were totally opposed to the white racial system.
The educated and enlightened African nationalists were fighting to be treated equal to their white counterparts before, meaning they merely wanted a reformation of the existing repressive system so that they would enjoy more privileges above the poor people who were largely uninformed and less educated.
History of Townships
Before independence in 1980, blacks in the townships experienced exclusion and marginalisation in the enjoyment of their basic socioeconomic rights. The men lived like bachelors in townships while women were banished to the communal areas, and then referred to as reserves and tribal trust lands where they looked after children.
On top of that, the different taxation systems introduced by the white minority regime drove a lot of people to a life of penury, where they toiled for nothing. For instance, Mbare hostels were created to accommodate men only, as women were not allowed to live together with their husbands.
Similarly, then new locations like Tafara, Mabvuku, and Dzivarasekwa were created for housemaids and gardeners working in the houses of white colonial masters. It is from this housing arrangement that a majority of the blacks were able to own houses in the period stretching from 1964 through to independence in 1980.
The houses in these places were not constructed by the Salisbury City Council but were partially financed by the black nannies, gardeners and their white bosses, with the Salisbury Municipality only coming in to do the administration and provision of basic essential services.
Title Deeds for Townships
The Harare City Council (HCC) now claims that thousands of these houses built by the working people are now rented accommodation. However, it is evidently clear that these people should have been given title deeds a long time ago.
The ownership of houses in these old townships has become one of the most pressing issues that need to be resolved. Failure by the Harare City Council to adequately respond to this housing ownership challenge has left vulnerable families occupying these houses insecure, frightened and open to manipulation by the city authorities.
Mhanda (2005) says: “To the masses of Zimbabwe, the national liberation war was being waged for the attainment of self-determination and full democratic rights whilst for the nationalists, the war was essentially a pressure mechanism to induce political negotiations for the transfer of power to them.”
This means that in our context as Zimbabwe, the systems of administration put in place have never really served the interests of the common man and woman, but exist to serve and satisfy the power retention aspirations of the nationalists, who have now proceeded to establish institutions which are only accountable to them, and never to the citizenry.
According to the UN (2014), at independence in 1980, Zimbabwe inherited a well-developed urban sector and a neglected rural sector in terms of water supply. In their Zimbabwe Country Analysis Report, the UN said: “By 2000, 100% of the urban population had access to improved sources of drinking water, while only 74% of the rural population had access to improved sources of drinking water, giving the overall average of 82% at national level.
However, since then, access to safe drinking water has been declining. In 2014, 76% of households had access to improved sources of drinking water, with wide disparities noted between urban (95%) and (70%) rural.”
The City of Harare, in its Strategic Plan (Harare, 2012) admits that the local authority is currently providing water to only 55% of Harare residents, with 45% not receiving municipal water. The Council said its strategy on service delivery to address water issues is to “Rehabilitate all clear water and waste water plants and equipment through Private-Public Partnerships, rehabilitate distribution network, install meters to all households and reduce non- revenue water loss, rehabilitate waste water distribution network through Private-Public Partnerships, construct new water sources with partners and construct water and waste water utilities in consultation with key stakeholders.”
It can be determined from these strategies that the goal is to gradually disempower the citizen from enjoying their basic freedoms, rights and attainment of human dignity, values which were articulated in the fight for the independence of Zimbabwe.
This suggests that central and local government authorities are failing in their responsibility as duty bearers in the provision of water, and that the citizens are either not aware of their rights to participate in the provision of water and not holding the duty bearers accountable, or they are reluctant altogether to participate as rights holders.
The World Bank (2006) cited in Zinyama and Nhema (2016) said privatisation of water governance was not the solution to the water crisis. The World Bank is quoted as saying: “In many developing countries, the delivery of water services is unsatisfactory. Many households do not receive water from the main utility, even though they would be prepared to pay for the services. Others are connected, but get water for only a few hours a day. Even fewer are connected to a sewer network. Often water is not safe to drink and the wastewater is not properly treated (World Bank, 2006: 99-100).”
It is evident that service delivery, in particular the proposed introduction of prepaid water meters, will worsen the situation for the poor urban dweller, who is already struggling to pay monthly bills to the local authority. The life of urban citizens is already filled with several burdens worsened by high unemployment levels, estimated at 11% (ZimStats, 2012) but projected at plus 80% by independent observers and opposition political groups.
It is concluded that the challenges of housing delivery, water supply and the enjoyment of basic rights and freedoms in independent Zimbabwe have not been fully addressed. It is high time that the citizens claim their rights and demand to be fairly treated with human dignity by authorities.
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