Mounting Anger As Residents Drink Sewage

Residents in Zimbabwe's cities, like the little girl in Kambuzuma pictured here, are still collecting dirty water from drains and polluted wells for their needs because the taps are still dry. Now a massive electricity blackout, affecting suburbs for more than three days at a trot, are stoking the people's anger against the MDC-T and the Inclusive Government. The most common sentiment is that "We never experienced this bad when Mugabe was alone in Government."

With the advent of winter here in Zimbabwe (which has come early this year, not in June as in other years), ZESA, the Power Authority, has started a brutal, unforgiving schedule of rolling blackouts (load-shedding).

Large swathes of Harare, Bulawayo and other urban centres are being totally cut off for more than three days at a time.

As I speak right now, large parts of industrial areas around Graniteside and Workington are in darkness. 

Quite apart from the impact this has on the operations of private enterprise (which the IMF recently insisted will be the engine for Zimbabwe's regeneration and not aid or donor funds), it is the anger of residents that is most disturbing.

The two MDCs in government are clearly forgetting that this is exactly what turned people against Robert Mugabe and ZANU PF. They suffered lack of services (no water in their taps, no electricity, they could not pay school fees and so on). They suffered diminished standards of living until they decided they had had enough of ZANU PF and Mugabe.

Prime Minister Tsvangirai must not make the mistake of thinking that he holds a magic wand that lulls the people into a deep slumber regardless of how shoddily his government treats them. 

The mistake the MDCs are making is thinking that the people will give them the same leeway they gave Mugabe. That they will suffer in resilient silence like they did when the dictator was alone in government.

The dictator used force to silence the masses. The MDC does not have this tool at their disposal. Even if they did, I would like to think that they would not go that route. Persuasion, delivering services and actually changing people's lives is the only tool at their disposal.

They are squandering this.

Yet solutions abound.

For starters, one of the MDC leaders that I truly admire, Elias Mudzuri, the former mayor of Harare, is the new Minister of Energy in Zimbabwe.

Day before yesterday, he held a press conference at which he announced that he had issued a directive to ZESA setting the charges they should bill customers (US$30 per month for high-density, poorer areas and US$40 for the more affluent areas).

Ironically, in the same statement, Mudzuri says ZESA needs more funds injected into it in order to import up to 500MW of power and to rehabilitate crumbling infrastructure.

The MDC was at the forefront of telling us for years that the ZANU PF government was ensuring the failure of ZESA by setting prices, not allowing the power authority to charge viable rates that would finance the rehabilitation of infrastructure and imports of the deficit we suffer as a nation.

Yet now, Tsvangirai's own MDC-T ministers are doing exactly what they criticised ZANU PF for: issuing directives on prices and tariffs for everything from phones to water and electricity.

It is a peculiarly Communist approach to governing. They want the people to enjoy the benefits of all these services without paying anything that even approaches cost recovery.

The problem is that people do not see it this way when they then do not get the services. What they see is failure by the governing parties.

As one visitor to our offices put it yesterday, "If the MDC is allowed to appoint governors and Permanent Secretaries, will that give me electricity or water? Will that stop cholera? Will that school fees for my children?"

Like I said, it is difficult for anyone outside Zimbabwe at the moment to fully appreciate the people's anger, which is now directed at Tsvangirai and the MDC-T, who tied a noose around their necks by repeatedly telling the nation that they are in charge of policy formulation and implementation.

The people want implementation.

The people see burst water pipes in the city centres of Harare, Bulawayo, Masvingo, Mutare and other areas, spilling countless gallons of treated water into storm drains while in their own homes out in the townships, not a drop can be found in the taps.

They see this and they say Tsvangirai only cares for posts and power, not for them. They see this and they say he has abandoned them while fighting for places at the feeding trough for his lackeys and cronies.

The MDC-T, MDC-M and the Prime Minister, as well as his deputies, are making a big mistake in taking people for granted like this.

But I reckon, because Tsvangirai now knows that the MDC will fight against another, unconstitutional and illegal term for him as Party President, he really does not care much for electoral success.

If he hangs on in the Prime Minister's Office, he is guaranteed a government pension, perks and the like, for the rest of his life.

He is now looking out for himself and nobody else.

But in so doing, he is undoing his party.


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