Some years ago the people living to the east of Madzima Road in Mbare were without water for many months. Every morning one could see women and big girls setting out with buckets and plastic containers to find water somewhere, e.g. with friends and relatives in remote parts of Mbare, or even outside Mbare in other suburbs, or in a little stream near Stoddard Police Station for those who did not want to carry heavy water-filled buckets over long distances. 

But that came at great risk: the stream was obviously contaminated and its water smelled of sewage. I asked some of the girls balancing heavy loads on their heads, “Do you drink this water? Cook with it?” – “Oh, no, we don’t, just for washing!” I hope that was true. 

Then a development agency came and sank a borehole. A hand pump was installed, and, from then onwards, the women were very happy. Whenever I passed the pump there was a queue of chattering women waiting for their turn to pump clean water out of a depth of 45 m (or so I was told) to fill their containers. 

They did not mind the hard work. Still much better than to carry the heavy buckets over one, two or three kilometres. 

Unfortunately, nothing lasts forever. The pump shaft cracked and broke, and that was the end of the happy crowd of water carriers meeting at the pump every morning. 

For a long time now, the pump has been dead and deserted. No water, no women any more. No men either (there used to be the odd one out). 

I asked some women this morning why the pump had not been repaired. Did they know the people who had installed it? Yes, they did. But it would be expensive, and the local people had not yet come together to collect money with which to have the repairs done. There was no leadership, no one with initiative. 

So whenever there is a water shortage the women with their buckets are scouring Mbare again for water. Worst of all, some fetch it from the dirty stream, with cholera and typhoid never far away.

Patricia has been looking after her young siblings ever since her parents died. Her father was a soldier and lost a leg stepping on a landmine. When he died people whispered about his cruelty towards neighbours that did not support his party. Her mother developed cancer when she was still quite young, shortly after her church marriage.

Patricia was left alone with a younger sister and brother.

Recently she was evicted from the house which her father had rented from the “Kunonga faction,” or was it simply from the Anglican Church before the notorious bishop entered the scene? Nobody asked that question.

Patricia’s family belonged to the enemy, so she and her siblings had to be chased away. Now she is lodging somewhere else. This month she is still working and can pay the rent. She is not so sure about next month. She does not know whether her company will keep her on next year. Her future looks bleak.

See related reading

What future for the elated Anglicans in Zimbabwe

On Catholics’ solidarity with Zimbabwe’s Anglican community

Mbare Report No. 111 “AIDS orphans” is a discriminatory term. Though it describes the conditions of children who have lost their parents due to AIDS quite accurately