SOLDIERS at Inkomo Barracks in Nyabira, about 34km northwest of Harare last week set up camp at Morton Jaffray water works demanding immediate restoration of normal water supply to the military facility and Harare, the Zimbabwe Independent can reveal.
The unexpected intervention of the military, which resulted in some parts of Nyabira receiving normal supplies, jolted Harare City Council authorities, sources said, to frantically repair a burst pipe which had disrupted regular supplies.
This comes as most parts of Harare have endured prolonged periods without water as Harare City Council is battling to import six treatment chemicals from South Africa and China.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa this week warned cash-strapped local authorities, including Harare City Council, about importing steeply-priced treatment chemicals.
He gave the warning while commissioning a US$3 million Zimbabwe Phosphate Industries (Zimphos) fertiliser manufacturing plant.
The manufacturing plant has capacity to produce 20 000 tonnes of fertiliser annually and also water purification chemicals. It is widely expected to drastically trim the country’s import bill, in the short term.
Inkomo Barracks, which is home to the Parachute Regiment and 1 Mechanised Battalion gets the bulk of its water from Morton Jaffray.
The same water treatment facility also supplies water to about three million residents of Chitungwiza, Ruwa, Epworth and Norton.
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Harare City Council acting Town Clerk Mabhena Moyo confirmed the incident and said the engagement between the encamped soldiers at Morton Jaffray and staff at the water treatment site largely remained informal and nothing was communicated verbally formally nor in writing.
“They (soldiers) never communicated. There was no official communication. They were just talking to the workers (at Morton Jaffray) but nothing official came to us.
“Nothing was communicated to the Council officially. They did not tell us anything in writing,” Moyo said without explaining whether staff at Morton Jaffray had inquired from the soldiers the purpose of the visit.
However, sources close to the “unexpected” presence of the army at the waterworks told this publication that the soldiers ordered workers at the water site to promptly repair a broken pipe, which reportedly pumps water to Nyabira, where
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Inkomo Barracks is located.
The sources also added that the soldiers quizzed council staff why the capital was experiencing water shortages, and implored local authorities to address the challenges.
“When the soldiers descended on Morton Jaffray, they quickly camped at the main entrance to the plant. They wanted to understand why Harare was experiencing water shortages,” one source said.
“And importantly, they instructed workers to speedily repair a burst water pipe which supplies Inkomo Barracks. The workers were jolted into action by the instruction. They worked round the clock to fix it.”
Morton Jaffray superintendent Paul Chabata told the Independent that he was not authorised to comment on behalf of council.
“I am not allowed to comment on council matters. Please speak to the Town Clerk,” he said without elaborating further.
Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) Public Relations Director Colonel Alphios Makotore told the Independent that the institution does not comment on such matters in the media.
“The ZNA wishes to advise you that it does not make media comments on such matters,” Makotore responded to a set of questions posed to him on social communication platform WhatsApp.
Among other issues, the Independent had sought to understand how the military was engaging Harare City Council and other local authorities to address the acute water shortages gripping the country, which have disrupted the livelihoods of residents and industrial operations.
The publication also sought insight on how the erratic water supplies crippling various cities in the country were affecting the operations of the military.
The same questions, also posed to Defence minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kachiri drew blanks at the time of going to print.
Sources told the Independent that just as food inadequacies, authorities the world over treat water shortages as a security threat.
As reported by the Independent over the past month in its running series on the debilitating water shortages gripping Harare, the capital’s stock of treatment chemicals is exhausted and its pumping capacity has sharply dropped.
As at August 19, a situation report (sitrep) by Harare City Council showed that Harare, with a monthly requirement of 60 tonnes sulphuric acid (bulk), had nothing in stock. It also did not have ammonia of which it requires 1,3 tonnes a month.
The same report showed that while Harare requires at least 10,8 tonnes of chlorine gas a month, it currently has 3,9 tonnes, enough to last two days.
Due to the critical shortages of treatment chemicals, the report reveals, Harare is pumping 312 megalitres a day against a requirement of 800 megalitres.
Harare, which pumps water to Norton, Chitungwiza and Ruwa, has struggled to bridge the 488-megalitres-a-day deficit.
In the case of a High-Test Hypochlorite (HTH), Harare is only left with 4,89 tonnes, enough for two days while it needs 30 tonnes a month, the report highlights.
With a monthly requirement of 4 050 tonnes of granular alum, the city, which pumps the bulk of its water from Morton Jaffray plant, is only left with 1,95 tonnes which is not sufficient for a day.
Stocks of sulphate, as shown by the startling report, have dwindled to 41 tonnes while the capital requires 2 500 tonnes every month.
The disturbing report also indicates that Harare has nothing in its stocks for lime from a requirement of 360 tonnes every month. With a 60-tonne sodium silicate monthly requirement, the city’s stocks have dwindled to 44,5 tonnes. This is sufficient for 40 days.
While the situation is dire across the board, Harare has 27,26 tonnes of sulphuric acid (pcan) from a monthly requirement of 10 tonnes.
Zimbabwe’s military has intervened in various emergencies since the country’s Independence in 1980.
In 2019, the military, largely through the 3 Infantry Brigade, was deployed in Manicaland to undertake rescue operations in the wake of the devastating Cyclone Idai.
The ZNA was also deployed to carry out rescue operations when Cyclone Eline struck the country in 2000.
During the course of the country’s history, the military has carried out extensive demining activities which involved removing land mines that were mostly planted at the height of Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle.
During the times of peace, the military has widely participated in various socio-economic activities. It has also deployed military health personnel to public health institutions on numerous occasions after medical staff downed tools over poor remuneration and working conditions.