THE High Courts will this week be seized with determining three urgent chamber applications in which several residents in Chitungwiza, Mutare and Masvingo are seeking orders to compel municipalities, councils and central government to provide water during the subsistence of the national lockdown period and afterwards to help slow down the spread of the coronavirus epidemic in Zimbabwe.
High Court Judge Justice Owen Tagu will on Monday 6 April 2020 preside over the determination of an urgent chamber application filed by Chitungwiza Residents Trust (Chitrest), represented by Tonderai Bhatasara and Tinashe Chinopfukutwa of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), protesting against the pro-longed lack of running tap water supplies in Chitungwiza.
In Masvingo, High Court Judge Justice Neville Wamambo will on Monday 6 April 2020 hear a petition filed by Masvingo residents Nevermine Mutamba and Musekiwa Sungano Zvarebwanashe and Masvingo United Residents and Ratepayers Alliance represented by Martin Mureri of ZLHR seeking an order to force City of Masvingo, Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Minister July Moyo, Health and Child Care Minister Obadiah Moyo and Finance and Economic Development Minister Mthuli Ncube to ensure that residents access water.
On Tuesday 7 April 2020, High Court Judge Justice Hlekani Mwayera in Mutare will hear arguments from Passmore Nyakureba of ZLHR, who is representing Mutare resident Ephraim Matanda and United Mutare Residents and Ratepayers Trust, who on Saturday 4 April 2020 filed an urgent chamber application against City of Mutare, Moyo, Ncube and Moyo seeking an order to compel them to supply adequate, constant, clean and potable water to residents of the eastern border city who have lived for years without running tap water.
In their applications, the residents and residents associations argued that local municipalities, councils and central government had failed to discharge their constitutional obligations of ensuring the provision of running water to residents and this was a breach of several of the residents’ fundamental rights such as the right to water as provided in section 77 of the Constitution, the right to human dignity guaranteed in section 51 of the Constitution and the right to health care enshrined in section 76 of the Constitution.
The residents also said their right to freedom from torture guaranteed in section 53 of the Constitution was also being violated and this was arising from the conduct of some law enforcement agents who were ill-treating them while dispersing several people gathered at various water points including public and private boreholes to fetch water for domestic use.
Lack of access to water, the residents argued, was leading to the violation of the right to life provided under section 48 of the Constitution directly or indirectly through contracting deadly diseases that are waterborne. The risk, the residents argued, was further magnified by the outbreak of coronavirus which requires greater hygiene that includes washing hands with soap and water, which is only possible if there is potable water for domestic use.
The situation, the residents argued has now been compounded by the imposition of the 21-day national lockdown to help combat the coronavirus outbreak.
The residents argued that in order for them to fully comply with government regulations and the spirit of the national lockdown as urged by Moyo, the Health and Child Care Minister and in collaboration with some international organisations such as World Health Organisation, it is imperative that all people must exercise personal hygiene and therefore some measures must urgently be put in place for them to access water in their homes or at some points in a manner which will not increase the spread of coronavirus.
Local municipalities, councils and central government, the residents said, have neglected or refused to put such measures or to comply with their constitutional obligations.
The local authorities and central government, the residents said must during the duration of the national lockdown period ensure provision of safe, adequate, potable and uninterrupted water supply to them and make water available from bulk water suppliers including indicating the location of the water bowsers and distribute it in their towns and cities to avoid the grouping of big crowds at the water points in a way that ensures lessening the spread of coronavirus.
The residents said the local authorities should provide crowd control officers to ensure that people accessing water at various points do so in a manner complying with the social distancing guidelines as specified in various and lockdown directives issued by government.
Ncube, the residents said, must provide financial resources to implement measures to ensure provision and access to water by residents.
The municipalities and councils, the residents said should periodically notify residents associations and residents on safety and general hygiene that is water related in light of the coronavirus through all medium of communication and such should also be accessible to people living with disabilities and the visually impaired and the deaf.
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights
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