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Zimbabwe Health Ministry Voices Concern About National Water Safety

The Zimbabwean Ministry of Health acknowledged to parliament that it is concerned about the poor quality of the water that the Zimbabwe National Water Authority is delivering to city residents since taking over urban systems earlier this year.

Officials from the ministry told a meeting organized by the house committees on health and local government that random analyses indicated a health risk to the public.

ZINWA managers said the authority's financial problems have diminished its ability to procure water purification chemicals. But they stopped short of acknowledging that the water they provide to urban residents is unfit to drink. However, authorities in large cities like Bulawayo have reported widespread outbreaks of diarrheal disease.

Members of the public attending the hearing complained about the poor service they say ZINWA has provided since taking over water systems in cities including Harare, Bulawayo, Marondera and Mutare under legislation passed in 2006. Residents of various cities have also complained of massive increases in water rates.

Critics of the legislation say the government of President Robert Mugabe directed the takeover in order to take control of cash flows from urban water rates, which were a major source of revenue for local authorities, most controlled by the opposition.

Lawmaker Blessing Chebundo, chairman of the house committee on health, told reporter Carole Gombakomba of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that parliament is probing ZINWA operations, including questionable billing practices.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...