Wed Oct 26 11:46:21 SAST 2016

State's urban exodus plot only a myth

By unknown | Dec 14, 2007 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

The shower - one of my first loves - is back in my house. For a year or more a cruel twist of fate, in the form of a government obsessed with running a business, had forced us to part.

Since 1992, when I moved into my house, I had enjoyed a relationship with the shower right next to my bedroom, like a film star. You get out of bed and, literally, go straight into the shower.

Then one day, one of the saddest in my life, the water didn't rain down on me as it always did. First, there was a trickle. Then, horror of horrors, there was nothing, just silence and not a drop.

Retiring to the bath tub in another section of the house, I trudged like a man mourning the death of a loved one. Would we ever be reunited, perhaps only in the afterlife?

What had happened was the government takeover of the water and sewage arrangement in the suburb. They had formed this monster of a parastatal, the Zimbabwe National Water Authority.

Until this week, there had not been enough pressure to work the shower. I had to use the bath tub which, for some reason probably associated with my latent male chauvinism, had always been linked in my mind to the sort of luxury bubble bath women love to wallow in once in a while.

But when I tried the shower in a desperate bid to establish if I would ever again feel the water cascading down my spine like a loving, caressing hand, it surprised me by drenching my body immediately.

I don't know for how long I sang Oh, What A Beautiful Morning!as the shower and I danced this merry dance of reunion.

How long will it last this time, before the monster Zinwa messes up our love affair again? This parastatal, one of many the government seems to believe holds the secret to our development problems, has caused so much heartache among the residents of the major cities. I have always imagined people consulting either witchdoctors or shamans to cast a spell on the managers, so that one day, out of the blue, they will announce that they have failed and are handing back the functions where they belong - to the city councils.

Most people I know believe it's political: the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) dominates the urban areas.

The ruling party is effectively in control of the rural areas. The suspicion is that the ruling party wants to drive the urban voters to the rural areas, and turn them into Zanu-PF loyalists.

I have always been fascinated by a story I read years ago about the government of Bangladesh launching a drive to softly persuade people to return to the rural areas.

The report suggested the government deliberately let the amenities deteriorate until conditions became intolerable. I have never come across reliable statistics on how many people actually moved back to the sticks as a result of the government's underhand strategy.

So far, the Bangladeshi capital Dacca remains a bustling, crowded metropolis.

I suspect the same will happen in Zimbabwe. Statistics from the United Nations suggest more people will soon live in the cities and towns than in the rural areas.

So, my shower and I may be reunited for good, unless Zanu-PF comes up with other sure-fire strategies.

l Bill Saidi is deputy editor at The Standard in Zimbabwe.


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