Water crisis forces Zim High Court to close down

by Wayne Mafaro

HARARE - Zimbabwe's High Court was forced to closed down on Tuesday after it ran out of water as key institutions and infrastructure in the troubled southern African country steadily grind to a halt after nearly a decade of economic and political turmoil.

A crippling shortage of foreign currency - only one on an ever-growing list of shortages gripping the country - has resulted in the state water utility, the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (ZINWA), failing to import chemicals to treat water.

A shortage of electricity has also hampered efforts to pump water to suburbs and residents have resorted to digging shallow wells for water.

In a statement on Wednesday the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) expressed concern over the closure of the High Court, saying it was undermining the rights of lawyers, detainees and even convicted prisoners whose matters were on appeal and could not be heard.

"That such a court as a vehicle for protecting human rights should be closed due to lack of water is seriously undermining the equal protection of the law to litigants, detainees, and even convicted prisoners whose matters are on appeal from lower courts," ZLHR said.

The ZLHR said the court buildings had become a health hazard to people who worked in them and urged the government to ensure that the buildings were maintained.

"ZLHR further notes and observes that working in such buildings is a health hazard to court officials, judges and clerks who are already working under nearly inhumane conditions," it said.

"ZLHR calls upon the Ministry of Justice Legal and Parliamentary Affairs and relevant authorities to ensure that the High Court of Zimbabwe and indeed all courts in Zimbabwe are given all the necessary tools and essentials to enable them to function properly, timeously and effectively in exercising their judicial authority."

Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa was not immediately available for comment on the matter.

The water crisis in Zimbabwe has reached unprecedented levels with Harare residents having been forced to source for drinking water from unprotected water sources. There has also been an increase in cholera outbreaks because of usage of unclean water and which has led to more than 120 deaths since over the last few months.

Zimbabwe is in the grip of a severe political and economic crisis that the World Bank has described as the worst in the world outside a war zone and is seen in the world's highest inflation rate of more than 230 million percent, severe shortages of food and every basic survival commodity.