Operation “Arrest Dar Water Thieves” was announced beginning last week and implementation began immediately in Kinondoni district. In a single day’s crackdown more than 25 electric water pumps used by crooks to divert the precious liquid from the distribution network to their homes or illegal water selling centres were impounded.
Results of the first day of the operation involving police and workers from two government agencies responsible for water services in the city, that is Dar- es- Salaam Water and Sewerage Corporation(DAWASCO) and the Dar –es-salaam Water and Sewerage Authority (DAWASA) are proof that the problem is truly widespread.
Earlier, the minister responsible for water services had revealed – visibly furious -- that about 32 percent of the water pumped for public use in the city and supposed to be available at reasonable charges was being stolen and sold at unaffordable prices to consumers, mostly low-income users. It has also been revealed that water agencies in Dar es Salaam may be losing about Tsh500 million a year due to this malpractice.
The fact that a lot of cash is at stake in the illegal water connection business in Dar es Salaam is a good hint, or rather starting point, for whoever genuinely intends to tackle the problem head on.
Those millions of shillings involved do not just end up in the pockets of a few crooks at the end of the theft-cum-sabotage chain -- who happen to have the guts of selling stolen water in broad daylight; it’s an open secret that real beneficiaries of this racket are employees of government agencies responsible for water distribution in the area.
Let it be noted that as daring young men have been openly selling water obtained through illegal connections for years, we are told the water agencies have field officers in specific areas assigned to monitor how those services are delivered in the city.
Could we possibly attribute what has been happening to failure, or incompetence, on the part of the field officers alone? No way. The carefree boys at the end of the chain openly say that some field officers get a cut on weekly or monthly basis in order to protect them.
And those privy to how corruption is operating in the country will tell you that corrupt field officers have to also deliver part of the cut to corrupt office supervisors in order to retain their positions, despite the fact that their performance leaves much to be desired. By the way, this kind corruption networking does not exist in the water sector alone but is the order of the day in most other sectors providing public services.
It isn’t be true that the Ministry of Water and the Dar es Salaam Regional Commissioner’s Office haven’t heard about the disruption of water services in the city for the first time. Public outcry about the water shortage and how the problem is made worse by mismanagement of the services as well organized theft has been too loud to be unheard.
One visual clue is portrayed well known and frequent on-and-off operations ostensibly geared at arresting water thieves. Normally, a few culprits caught-red handed are taken to court in the course of such operations, but thereafter it goes back to business as usual -- the networks benefiting from the water scarcity.
This brings us to the key question we are trying to address: what are the chances that the ongoing operation “arrest water thieves” will succeed where previous ones have failed? Some observers are of the opinion that not much can be expected from what is perceived to be a politically motivated operation, allegedly meant to frantically extinguish the fire raised by the MP for Ubungo in the last session of parliament.
Hon. John Mnyika wanted to raise a private motion on water blues in Dar es Salaam , which was nipped in the bud but has served as a wake up call to those responsible for the water situation in the city with a population of over 4 million residents.
The biggest hitch in this saga, however, is the fact that the two roots causes, that is the corruption hand in it and the grossly inadequate water supply are yet to be strategically addressed .
Henry Muhanika is a Media Consultant(email@example.com)