Don’t you just get annoyed when say you are in a shop and someone who doesn’t seem to know squat about what they are selling attends you to? Do the words: oh that’s a good buy, excellent brand or it will look good on you sound familiar? I mean, if you are offering a good product, wont it just sell itself? I am almost always convinced that the more a pushy salesmen tries to shove their product down my throat, it sucks and I certainly don’t want it! Sometimes these sales people can be such a pain. Its like they speak a foreign language. Consider this, I am at TV Sales and Hire, humbly hoping to purchase a new 4-plate stove. It must be portable, black and one of the known brands like Defy or Kelvinator. I see a Defy, but it seems to have one switch for oven control, meaning it has no separate selector option for grill or bake, right? In case I am mistaken, I call one of the hovering assistants. He is stumped. So are the others. But they are convinced that the stove can grill or bake separately (why shouldn’t it), just can’t seem to figure out how. I’m about to vaporize out of there fast and I’m hooked by the assistant’s next sentence; “But we have this one, a Superior. It would do well for your house.” I’m standing there thinking, man, first of all you don’t know where I live, the color is all wrong (white) and it’s a bloody 2 plate unknown brand (at least to me). I must have looked like I wanted to sneeze; the way he cowered. Am I missing something? For someone to suggest something so asinine and expect to extort money from me for something I don’t want is simply an insult to my intelligence.
That’s exactly the same feeling I got when yesterday I read for the umpteenth time of another unnamed international NGO being applauded in the media for restoring ‘basic services to the people of Zimbabwe’ in the form of boreholes. In this day and age all I am asking is; if you had the choice between borehole or pipe water, what would you pick? And what’s ‘basic’ about accessing water from a borehole in 2009 Harare central? I am pretty much wondering most of the time, just what do certain unnamed development organizations think they are doing putting in place temporary solutions that will be unsustainable in the long run, not to mention backward and anachronistic – in drilling boreholes as a solution to Zimbabwe’s water woes? I mean, talk about underdevelopment!
In recent months, Zimbabwe has seriously been dogged by water shortages that have seen the country’s largest university close down temporarily and gave rise to water hawkers commonly known as maraicha. NGOs have decided to chip in by digging boreholes all over the place. But this has raised a number of questions in my mind: if they are willing to part with such huge quantities of money just sinking boreholes, why don’t they just simply complement the efforts of government which is currently in the process of digging out old pipes and replacing them with new ones? It is not a secret that the government has not money and might not even complete this exercise, not to mention effectively.
Since boreholes have become such a fashion statement, there has been a scramble by individuals to sink some on their yards, especially in the high-density areas where water has become a pipe dream, no pun intended. Alongside the scramble to sink boreholes has also been a scramble to sink pit latrines for want of an easy ablution solution. Use of pit latrines will pollute underground water systems, which will see unimaginable health and environmental problems.
Resident Minister for Bulawayo Metropolitan Province, Cain Mathema might have had a point when he lambasted NGOs in 2005 for insisting on sinking boreholes instead of assisting in ensuring metered tap water for all. The minister, who in October this year found himself in court suing for denied conjugal rights (Oh how I hate people who mention the unrelated) said, “There are no hand pumps in Europe. We want metered water. Boreholes must go.”
In the spirit of development work that provides sustainable, permanent solutions without creating dependency, it becomes quite interesting why international donors insist on prescribing and spending millions on such impractical and temporary solutions for their beneficiaries. Something is just not quite right.
The real need is to rehabilitate and expand the network of water works, starting with the capital going out. Our current water woes are already de to a historic lack of investment in that area by government. What are preparing for the future of our children 20 years from now if we gullibly nod at boreholes today?
Nobody has stopped to think that we basically need a near permanent solution that is not only safe but also gender sensitive. Boreholes do nothing to alleviate the plight of women who by nature and social expectation will be the ones break backing queuing and ferrying water at 4am in the morning and the rest of the day.
On the other hand, proliferation of boreholes has dire consequences on the environment and in any case, when they dry up and they will dry up at some point then, what –we dig again? If you ask me, someone smacks of a pushy salesman and I hate em for it.