Cholera in Zimbabwe and South Africa is a political emergency

Tuesday 20th January, 2009

Thursday 22 January 2009 by Nic

The Cholera Crisis in Zimbabwe (and now increasingly, in South Africa) calls for political will to confront the ultimate perpetrators and deliver clean, accessible public water supplies.

On top of the untold human misery resulting from Zimbabwe’s economic meltdown and political repression over the last several years, there are now thousands of people who have died of cholera while tens of thousands more lie hopeless in decrepit public hospitals without medication and necessary equipment. The reality is that, like the judiciary and education there no longer exists a Zimbabwean health system. All the while of course, Robert Mugabe and his cronies continue to enjoy the privileges of their plunder, Mugabe and his wife having recently returned from a luxury holiday and shopping spree in the Far East whilst the country falls further into the abyss.

The cholera crisis in Zimbabwe could have been prevented long ago but is it is now very real, not only for Zimbabweans but also for increasing numbers of poor South Africans. It is rapidly becoming a regional crisis with 13 deaths confirmed and more than 2,000 people having been infected within the borders of our country. The Emfuleni municipality admitted several weeks ago that the Vaal River has been partially contaminated (despite repeated denials by Rand Water and government) and there has been a serious under-reporting of cholera-related cases both in Gauteng and other provinces. Many smaller rivers in the north of the country - often the sole source of water for poor rural communities - have fallen victim as well.

The Coalition Against Water Privatisation (CAWP) welcomes the roles played by humanitarian NGOs as well as the United Nations (UN) in trying to assist with the necessary medications and support for cholera victims. However, in order for a permanent solution to be found, what is really needed is political will on the part of the government of South Africa to not only remove all political and economic support for Mugabe and his cronies but also to provide clean, accessible and publicly owned/serviced water supplies to all who live in this country.

The cholera crisis is a human-made problem and it affects mostly those who are in poverty. Organisations like CAWP and many others across South Africa are responding in practical ways, but with seriously limited resources and capacity. A permanent solution requires recognising the human and democratic right of the majority poor (whether in South Africa or Zimbabwe) to basic needs and services as well as meaningful human solidarity and effective water service management/delivery on the part of those who claim to democratically represent that majority. The fundamental question is: does our government have the political will to act?

For more information contact CAWP- Organiser Patrick "Patra" Sindane @ 073 052 7005

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