PUPILS and teachers at a number of government schools in Bulawayo have been left exposed to communicable diseases after the city council cut water supplies due to failure by the state to settle a $12 million debt.
Under the Covid-19 prevention regulations, all schools and other facilities where large crowds gather are required to have constant water supplies.
Lack of water supplies also exposes residents to communicable diseases such as cholera and typhoid.
Speaking at a recent Bulawayo Metropolitan inter-ministerial Covid-19 taskforce meeting, the deputy provincial education director (PED) for Bulawayo, Thabani Sibanda said some government schools in the city were also facing a shortage of sanitisers.
“Our government schools owe city council almost $12 million and some schools have had their water disconnected which affects negatively in terms of controlling Covid-19. One of the schools, Maphisa primary has had water disconnected and this becomes a challenge,” he said.
On the issue of sanitisers, Sibanda said the government was working with various stakeholders to address the situation.
“We are working with partners such as Africa Ahead, SOS, ZOL, Higher Life Foundation to provide clean water. These organisations have also provided water tanks to most of our schools,” said Sibanda.
However, the city’s town clerk Christopher Dube defended council’s decision to cut water supplies from the defaulting schools, saying the local authority needed money to pay creditors.
“This issue was caused by the Ministry of Finance as we used to have a set-off arrangement with the ministry, other government departments and ZIMRA. At the moment we are owing ZIMRA over $100 million and the government is almost owing us close to a similar amount,” said Dube.
“We would do a set-off arrangement where no money is involved and use journal entries where government departments pay by doing a journal entry that they have paid and the Ministry of Finance also does a journal entry that we have paid ZIMRA” said Dube.
He also appealed to the central government to revert back to this old system.
“It means we are not going to bother government departments and disconnect them. The issue of disconnections is diabolic; we do not want it as a city. We want to go back to set-off arrangements because it doesn’t create any conflict between the City of Bulawayo and government departments. The set-off must come back but the Ministry of Finance has said in terms of accounting, its bad accounting to do those set-offs.
“If there were no quarrels we were not going to disconnect. It is my humble request to have set-off arrangements so that we have no problem with government departments because it appears as if we are anti-government,” the town clerk said.
Responding to Dube’s plea, Local Government Minister July Moyo requested the city council to submit a written proposal on the issue.
“It makes a lot of sense. But making a lot of sense doesn’t make legal sense sometimes because of compliance on the Public Finance Management Act.
“It might be difficult but let us take it and see how we can navigate a decision especially now that a lot of local authorities are being owned by the government and the government is owned by local authorities,” said Moyo.