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No To Water Privatization in Zimbabwe

Sam Takaravasha Jr

Comaliso is taking the Zimbabwean government to court in order to force them to
privatize water supply in Harare. They argue that this is because the government has
failed to provide an uninterrupted supply of water to Harare. This article argues
against the privatization of water in Zimbabwe on 4 critical aspects, 1 Precedence, 2
Pragmatism, 3 Principle and 4 Lessons from current global crisis

Precedence

Privatization of water failed in South Africa a country whose population has better
standard of living than Zimbabwe. I listened to Trevor Ngwane narrating how lots of
poor people had their water cut because of unplayable water bills and how activists
went around re-connecting the water to save the perishing. Patrick Bond, a
Zimbabwean academic in South Africa laments how the Lesotho Highlands Water
Project caused the same hardships that Trevor mentioned in London at ALISC
Network meeting in Red Lion Square.

It must also be acknowledged that Zimbabwe’s ruling elite are also its business elite,
they will therefore be the ones to grab the water infrastructure at ridiculous cost. The
precedence for this was set in Russia during the privatization drive (shock therapy)
that presided over rapid introduction of capitalism. Under such a scenario
Zimbabwe’s public purse will be drained and the poor will be punished with heavy
bills forever.

Pragmatism

The problem in Zimbabwe is that poverty is worsening by the day, the middle class
has disappeared from the scene. Giving way to a two class society consisting of the
super rich and extremely poor. It is not practical to go into such a country to put toll
gates on essential services like water. The whole population will perish without water,
the fact is they just won’t afford it. Comaliso is trying to squeeze blood out of a stone.
20 years of economic decline has left the people desperately impoverished, why then
should anyone want the private sector to run a monopoly on water supply. That is a
recipe for disaster!!!

While Comaliso is right to claim that essential services in Zimbabwe need to be
managed better than they are at present. It is however more important to advocate
solutions that are practical. Zimbabwe is not like any other place on earth to today, it
is a patient in intensive care. While it is true that the private sector is often more
efficient than government it is also evident that in the absence of competition market
forces are not any more efficient than central government.

Principle

On a point of principle, basic necessities like water are human rights and authorities
are duty bound to allow universal access to them. If they were restricted from the poor
in favor of a diminishing elite minority, this would abrogate the very democratic
principles that COMALISO purports to advocate. Rejoice claims that privatization is
working in some parts of Harare i.e. the super rich parts of town like Glenlone. He
however fails to prove that it will work in Highfields and Hatcliff. What about the
majority that casts more votes and makes your bread and sweeps the streets? Don't
you need them any more? We can’t sacrifice our already impoverished people for the
sake of profit.

If the current administration has failed shouldn’t we learn to remove them
democratically? The trouble with the Anarchists and Neoliberal ideologies that drive
COMALISO is that they do not understand that an accountable and benevolent
government is possible and can be fair with every one. The prevailing poverty
testifies that Zimbabweans need poverty reduction through equal life chances and
opportunities for all. Hard working families must once again be able to climb up the
social ladder through education and hard work. Such an environment is not possible
while the basics of life are cordoned by tollgates of rent seeking private capital.

Capitalists argue that market forces will expand the economy and benefit everyone in
the process but Joseph Stiglitz, Jeff Sachs, Kerry McNamara and other Washington
economists proved that the trickle down approach just doesn't work especially in
developing countries. There must be pro-poor policies to give the impoverished a
chance in life.

COMALSO is barking up the wrong ideological tree, they are suggesting a permanent
solution to a temporary problem. We could easily see the end of inefficiency replaced
by unaffordable water bills, followed by disease and high infant mortality. Such bad
policies breed political turmoil and high crime level. Countries without social
conscience have high crime because the poor have no other option than rob the rich.
The question is should Zimbabwe spend on crime prevention or on creating life
chances for all? I COMALISA must answer.

Lessons from current global crisis

The current global crisis can be summarized in one statement, “Unfettered capitalism
brings more harm than good”. The whole world is now convinced that market forces
are not infallible. They lead to booms and busts, the worst being that during capitalist
booms only a few benefit while the burst affects all of us. The poor lose their jobs,
homes and savings. Comaliso’s intention to surrender Zimbabwe’s water supply to
capitalist sharks is oblivious of the lessons that zealous capitalists like George Bush,
Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy have just leant. As they all rushed to bail out
failing banks from the perils of capitalism Sarkozy could not help but admit that
“Laissez-faire is finished.” One can’t see why anyone wants to privatize water in a
country whose government cannot afford to rescue its markets if the pains brought to
Zimbabwe by ESAP should renew their devastating effect on a nation already in
intensive care.

In conclusion I say don't privatise water it is a basic necessity, market forces have
failed to regulate themselves in property and banking sector and they are now relying
on government to bail them out at tax payers' expense. Why do you think they will do
well under a monopoly in Zimbabwe.

African nations must approach globalization with caution because unbridled
liberalization is not reciprocated by the west. We must ask why European countries
still protect their farmers while preaching deregulation to Africa. They insist on
protecting their farmers but our people don’t see the need to protect our suffering
people. Shame on us, NYAMA YENGURUVE INO KANGWANEMAFUTA AYO
(a case of pork fried in its own fat)

The current recession is evidence that market forces needs some state intervention.
High oil prices should have increased oil supplies Why? Because basic economics
claims that more is supposed to be supplied at higher than low price. Instead the
pendulum swung one way and never returned. Not with water guys and not in
Zimbabwe you will have skulls and skeleton on the streets while a very few sharks
smile their way to the banks.

Fighting for Social Justice

Sam Takavarasha Jr