Masebo is not to blame- Ngobola Cengelo Muyembe


Ngobola Cengelo Muyembe

Masebo is not to blame

I have talked about this issue for years now, so forgive my strong language today! It is a Drinking Water Safety Problem and it has nothing to do with Silvia Masebo or her Ministry. There is enough blame to go around including the ordinary people, Town Clerks, and their Councillors who are not just reckless but notorious when it comes to land allocation. Danny Pule built his Church on an aquifer and Diego Cassli together with people from UNZA ransacked the other section on East Park. Do you realize that all these tall buildings coming up around Lusaka are built on land that was designed to accommodate less than 6 people? At most, if someone combines two or 4 plots in Rhodes Park or Kabulonga the maximum allowable is 24 people. That means the sewer load on the existing manholes and pipes should have the corresponding expansion otherwise it is just another hazard waiting to happen.

Some of the shallow wells that are contaminated are strangely close to the Lusaka Water Works that are drawing water from the ground!! Contamination can easily be traced but trust me, it will never lead you to Silvia Masebo and her Ministry. I had my disagreement with her when she was at local government but not here. How do you have the Ministry of Water that is divorced from the Local Government? You use water to clean up the city that is why your water bill comes with a component of sewer charge because the two go together.

There is a need to change the law to allow any professional who wants to become a councilor to do so without quitting their job. We have left the council chambers to be operated by the unemployed cadres or anyone who promises plots to his supporters. People tried to blame Garry Nkmobo for removing street vendors but imagine what would have happened had they still been allowed to continue.

Right now as I write this, a professional street vendor is building a structure right next to an Air Valve on Lake Road/Joe Kapilikisha opposite the former Horizon School near Hilltop Hospital. The reason he or she can do that is because the council and their local councilors allowed those Car Washers to build permanent structures and the next person thought it was fairly legal. Could have been political pressure but that is beside the point.

I went to Lusaka Water Last month to ask why they would allow such things to happen and I was told that some of these people have approved documents from the City Council. Who approves a plot on the road? I say road because the service lane is part of the road infrastructure. When you see an Air Valve it means there is a larger pipe under it usually transporting water from a treatment plant into a reservoir. It takes the air out of the pipe when water is being pumped to prevent airlocks for smooth flow and to prevent surge pressure or shock in pipes that may lead to burst pipes. The drinking water safety issue comes in when there are repair works on the pipe or in case of power failure at the pumping station. When this happens, Lusaka Water has to drain the water from these pipes through a washout valve for them to repair them and what happens this time is a reverse flow of water creates negative pressure and all the gunk coming from all those structures built on top of those pipes will be sucked into the pipes.

When power comes back or they finish repairs and Lusaka water starts pumping, all that gunk will be pumped into people’s houses and storage tanks at each and every building and this basically means unknowingly pumping contaminated water and poisoning the city because of the behaviour of a few arrogant and reckless human beings who want to build where they like. I have not even touched the issue of fire fighting because some of these spaces you are building on were left clear for Fire Hydrants are meant to clean the pipes through flashing. They are also left open enough for a fire truck to draw water easily so that they put out the fire. You constantly laugh at firefighters showing up to a scene without water not knowing that you have encroached on their tapping points. Next time, you will be crying about one of these newly constructed multi-story buildings catching fire and the Fire Brigades coming with empty trucks because they will have nowhere to draw water from.

There is a reason why there was a Paramilitary police office at every Water Treatment Plant during the Rhodesian wars under Kaunda. This is because if a bad person injected strong poison at the water works, the entire city could get killed if the poisoned water got pumped into households. The huge spaces left around water treatment plants are there as recharge zones to stop people from contaminating the water at the source with their activities. In Bemba, they even say you don’t muddy the waters at source but in town, people see nothing wrong with that. The encroachment of people on land for the Water Works near Chawama has nothing to do with the Ministry of Health. UTH Boreholes where we are demanding that people get treated get its water from land donated by Kenneth Kaunda and people have started encroaching on it already. What do you think will happen in the future?

The people have encroached on Water Works land and built houses with pit latrines and soakaways discharging all sorts of gunk into the ground where Lusaka Water gets its water from. This is not just a Lusaka Problem but an urban problem because in Copperbelt, the same thing is happening. Who do you think has poisoned our people? Chitalu Chilufya without any shame is talking about the Cholera vaccine! So you want the people to continue drinking dirty water as long as they take your vaccine wherever you will get that from? Why not propose a proper Drinking Water Safety Plan? This is not me making this up but it is the UN -United Nations that proposed this from as far back as the 80s. You can google it for yourself.

Silvia Masebo is being heaped with a problem that has been created by the people and their leaders over the years throughout Zambia and if you do not look at the real reason why this is happening, you will continue scapegoating people for years to come. The problem is Water and Sanitation and the lack of respect for land left for the purpose of service delivery.

Chilankalipa saana!


  1. Indeed, the root cause of cholera is well-known. Contamination of water is at the heart of it all. But talk about government response to the outbreak, Masebo cannot be absolved from abysmal failure. When cholera has broken out already, what do you do in the short-term? Do you begin to address the long-term root cause whilst you watch people die? Do you not have to stop cholera deaths in the interim through a an awareness and mass vaccination programme by declaring a national emergency to allow for mobilization of resources internally and with support of cooperating partners?

  2. There are pro active and reactive interventions which are taken in any management of disease outbreaks. What the author of the article is saying is that we raze down Lusaka to control water contamination…we forget about other equally important interventions such as Vaccines being suggested by Dr Chitalu .
    We don’t criticise any reactions to the Cholera outbreak no matter how dismal …and let the media be awash with the president celebrating his farm started in the 1990s…and put the Cholera out break to the periphery.
    Some guys have all the luck..If this had happened under ECL…iyee. All hell would have broken loose.


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