HARARE, Zimbabwe

Denis Dandaro, 39, was a farmer until recently, tilling the land for agricultural yield. But now, he has a tube well in the same field near his residence in Harare’s Bloomingdale medium density area of Zimbabwe, where he sells water instead of crops, which he claims is more profitable.

Potable water was once a free commodity accessible to anyone, but many people have moved to this new illegal business, such as Dandaro, who makes money by selling water in the landlocked southern African country.

Due to obsolete water infrastructure, broken water pipes, and the country’s increasing urban population, running water has become a rarity in most towns and cities over the years.

Harare is fast becoming the epicenter of Zimbabwe’s water woes, with many businesspeople turning to illegal trading in the face of seeming leniency from the government.

According to Zimbabwe’s Statutory Instrument 90 of 2013, no one “shall sell groundwater or surface water in bulk” unless they are registered with the Zimbabwe National Water Authority, and anyone who violates these legal restrictions faces a fine of up to level eight or six months in prison or both.

Residents in Mabvuku, Kuwadzana, and Mufakose, which are particularly hard hit by the drinking water shortage, have almost forgotten to drink from the tap.

“Because there is no running water here, we buy it. I just bought 5,000 liters of water,” Benito Mukaro, a Mabvuku resident, told Anadolu Agency, pointing to a water tanker filling an empty tank at his home through a hose pipe.

“We always get it from dealers,” he remarked.

As many water-stressed urban residents like Mukaro are forced to buy water for home use, sellers like Dandaro will benefit greatly.

“One water tanker contains 20,000 liters of water, and for every 5,000 liters of water I frequently supply to each household,” he explained, adding that he earns about $2,400 per month after paying his eight employees through this new venture.

With water scarcity hitting Zimbabwe’s homes and industrial sectors, many residents have been forced to install water tanks, known as Jojo tanks, at their homes to store the precious liquid.

Garikai Chamugona, 40, of Tynwald South, has been in the business of selling water to urban people for several years, seizing the opportunity of water shortages. He has drilled more than 15 boreholes from which he obtains water for sale.

He claimed that this new business has changed his life and that he is now content with the manner he earns money from selling water. He sells 5,000 liters of water for $20 and does not deliver the commodity.

“All I do is supply water to dealers. They come with their water takers, and once they buy from me, they deliver to their customers,” Chamugona told Anadolu Agency.

Defunct water infrastructure

Over the years, Zimbabwe’s towns and cities have been hammered by persistent water shortages, which development experts have blamed on the country’s inadequate water infrastructure.

“Dams and lakes have long been neglected here, and as a result, they are filling up with siltation each rain season because of poor agricultural practices in towns and cities,” Pegina Maphosa, an independent development expert in Harare, told Anadolu Agency.

“Water that goes into the water bodies each rain season quickly gets wasted away,” he added.

Claris Madhuku, the director of the Platform for Youth Development, a civil society organization, has been blunt in his criticism of the government for the growing scarcity of water in towns and cities.

“Perennial droughts have continued to affect Lake Chivero, which supplies water to Harare residents,” he said, adding that the officials in charge of both the government and local governments have not provided solutions.

“There is also a persistent lack of maintenance of old water infrastructure, as well as a lack of capacity to procure the essential chemicals to treat water sources,” Madhuku told Anadolu Agency.​​​​​​​

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