PRESS STATEMENT BY THE HONOURABLE MINISTER OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT, PUBLIC WORKS AND NATIONAL HOUSING, CDE J.G. MOYO (MP), ON THE SUBJECT OF THE CHOLERA OUTBREAK
I wish to start by offering my sincere condolences to the families and friends of the twenty one people who have succumbed to the recent cholera and typhoid outbreak and to wish those who are undergoing treatment a speedy and complete recovery.
It is necessary, at this point in time, for me to make a press statement thanking the joint efforts by the Government, the Harare City Council, well wishers, both local and foreign and the general public, in spite of the unfortunate utterances by the Mayor of Harare concerning the issue of cholera, as published by Newsday. This is not the time to play games with people’s lives and try to score political points when the City is faced with a crisis of this nature.
It is important that everyone understands that cholera and typhoid are infectious diseases that know no bounds and certainly do not discriminate. To attempt to create partisan political mileage out of the suffering of one’s own supporters is diabolical and needs to end forthwith. The statements by the Mayor are inappropriate in the extreme.
I am sure that by now, a large number of Zimbabweans will have seen and heard exactly what the Honourable Minister of Health and Child Welfare, Dr Obadiah Moyo, said at the meeting of yesterday. My Deputy Minister was there and has fully briefed me. At no time did the Honourable Obadiah Moyo try to pass the blame for cholera onto anyone. He even went as far as to commend the City Council for the efforts they have made to date but encouraged them, and other players, to greater efforts.
Where mistakes were made, these were discussed professionally merely to overcome the consequences and this discussion was not held in the presence of the public or the press. Mayor Gomba might not be aware of the presence of his own officials in Honourable Dr Moyo’s meeting and these officials were able to give a vivid picture of what was happening. Perhaps His Worship should have met with his officials before making divisive and irresponsible statements with the potential to upset the amazing teamwork that has been built in combating this outbreak. To echo Hon Moyo, the First Lady also commended the City following her visit to patients at the hospital.
The Government of Zimbabwe is under no illusions as to the amount of work that needs to be undertaken in order to get the water and sanitation infrastructure for Harare Province up to standard. We are aware of the chronic overloading of the system, parts of which are decades old. Since the dawn of the new dispensation, the President himself has intervened and secured funding from the Government of China, together with technical assistance, for the complete overhaul of the bulk water supplies, the purification works, the sewer plants and the water and waste water reticulation system. The value of this assistance is US$940 million.
The responsibility of supplying potable water to the residents of any urban area is vested in the Council in terms of Part 8 of the Urban Councils Act whilst the management of sewer is covered by Part 7. I am at a loss as to why Cllr Gomba would like to infer that the Government was obliged to provide alternative water supplies when Council is collecting revenue for just that purpose. The Caretaker Council, which was lawfully established in terms of Section 80 of the Urban Councils Act, was only in office for a short time with restricted powers. Their only role was to ensure that governance did not stop. As Cllr Gomba is aware, because he has served in Council, the provision of protective clothing is not a Councillor responsibility but rather a management function. A question that begs to be asked is why the workers had no protective clothing when the Caretakers took over? The contamination of ground water supplies did not happen since the Constitutional dissolution of councils at midnight of 29 July 2018.
Whilst I am aware that the offer of creating a team to take Zimbabwe forward, made by His Excellency, the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe, Cde E.D. Mnangagwa, is yet to be taken up by the opposition, I believe that the Mayor’s indiscretions should never be allowed to divert our attention from saving lives. Overcoming this scourge, and any other hurdles we are going to face, has to be a team effort. Vakuru vedu vakati “Ruzhowa rwekunze rwunodzivirira vari mukati” The tiers of government are duty bound to work together for the people and therefore the Mayor should have brought his issues to the Minister in the Minister’s office, that has an open door.
I want to assure the people of Harare in particular as well as the citizens of Zimbabwe in general that we are not sleeping and we are doing everything within our power to not only bring this outbreak to an end, but to deal with the root causes. The public is asked to ignore this incident; rather let’s work together to get things done; as a family.