The shame of a cartel making one pay through the nose – part 2
When it became apparent there was a lawyer and some activists from Mathina village – who were sons and daughters of same – and who went about collecting residents views regarding the water issue, the cartel panicked. They had for long taken advantage of the largely illiterate villagers and had not foreseen the day the children would come of age and begin to question their decisions.
Climate change seemed to have compounded the situation as the springs discharge was low and water crisis was pronounced especially during the beginning of the year. Voices were more amplified and the lawyer and activists took the matter on their hands.
The ‘Chief’, or the head of the cartel, convened an emergency meeting of water officials from the nine clusters with the aim of finding a way out of the unfolding situation. This was when the cartel learned of a likely lawsuit instigated against them and especially a call for a forensic audit of the books from the day the cartel took over water management.
“We cannot let go of our water control,” the Chief told an assemblage of twenty seven mainly old men. Each cluster has three officials namely the chairman, the secretary and the treasurer. The only skirt wearer in the meeting was a petite young lady referred to as ‘tea girl’ and rumoured to be the Chief’s clandestine lover. She was incorporated as the official minute taker and paid directly from the water projects kitty.
It was a meeting that lasted hours. At the end of it, the cartel decided to break one of their rules. They were to drill a borehole and using the already in place water infrastructure, pipe the commodity to homes. And here was a catch. Each homestead would be connected with a water meter and residents pay dearly for every drop. The meeting’s resolution was that no individual would sink a borehole in their homesteads, and to that effect it was agreed some money would go in greasing the palms of some government officials to ensure everyone was convinced the cartel owned borehole was the only solution and was approved after lots of seismic study.
And that is what happened, for residents were mesmerised seeing top of range four wheel drive fuel guzzlers with insignias of different government departments cruising at the dirt village roads. The vehicles stopped in several spots ‘conducting ground analyses’ before giving a clean bill to a preselected spot the cartel had eyed on part of a utility ground in the Chief’s home area.
The cartel then went from one cluster or settlement scheme to the next lumping the villagers together and announcing the good news of the upcoming borehole to address the festering water issue. Everyone was happy, believing the same monthly payment would observe, and hailed the cartel for being visionary leaders.
For the villagers, the sight of a water drilling machinery was a novel technology and some came from afar to see the drilling works going. It was to take a bit long for any to have a taste of borehole water. To the cartel, this was more than a godsend opportunity to kill two birds with one stone as regarding passing costs on the poor folks.
The cartel first electrified the borehole then bought water meters with money from the water account. Then they turned the switch on and residents were more than happy to have piped water that came gushing hot in their spigots. When the first month since the unveiling of the borehole was over, the residents were in a shock being presented weird water bills. The meter reader, apart from telling each homestead the cost of their water consumption in the month under review, presented extra bills which were fixed but hidden cost for recovery of electricity and water meters installations. This was apart to another fixed charge billed as maintenance fee.
It became easier for those connected to the national grid to pay their utility bills than their water bills. Everyone was paying the latter four times than it was pre-borehole time.
The lawyer and activists, who were silenced with good handouts, left the villagers under the maws of a money hungry cartel.