Africa – Byo water crisis: Churches warn of violent protests – Bulawayo’s taps tightened as water shortage bites

Posted in: Drinking Water News, Ground Water News, Water Crisis
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Article courtesy of Nqobani Ndlovu | October 14, 2012 | The Standard | Shared as educational material only

BULAWAYO — A coalition of church organisations have warned government of massive protests in Bulawayo as people revolt against the water crisis being experienced in the country’s second largest city.

The water shortages have also caused the closure of several companies, resulting in hundreds of employees being redundant. Christian Alliance, a coalition of churches that promotes peace and tolerance, said it was a matter of time before Zimbabwe witnessed a violent protest against government for failure to solve problems affecting Bulawayo.

Useni Sibanda, Christian Alliance director said Bulawayo’s water problems “magnify a deliberate government policy of marginalisation of the region”.

“Government is sitting on a time bomb; it faces a rude awakening because people are angry about company closures and water shortages,” said Sibanda.

“This will lead to chaos, violent protests because people will not accept a situation where they are denied jobs and now water.”

Sibanda was addressing a peace building meeting organised by Bulawayo Agenda, Christian Alliance and the Church and Civil Society Forum (CCSF), held in Lupane last week. Bulawayo mayor, Tha-ba Moyo has said the council may be forced to use National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) locomotives to ferry water from the Zambezi River to the city.

“We will not sit and watch,” he said. “We have made some plans to bring water from other towns or from the Zambezi River using the National Railways of Zimbabwe goods trains.” Close to 100 companies have shut down in Bulawayo since 2010, sending close to 20 000 employees into joblessness.

The few that are operating have downsized operations while mulling relocation to other cities, citing crippling water shortages. Some suburbs have gone for weeks without water after the local authority introduced a tight water rationing regime following the decommissioning of dams.

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai recently said water shortages and a host of problems facing Bulawayo was a deliberate marginalisation policy by the Zanu PF administration since 1980. The meeting was attended by chiefs, village heads, political parties, churches, youth organisations and Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee officials.

Bulawayo’s taps tightened as water shortage bites.

Bulawayo’s water woes are set to mount, with its city council indicating that it will be extending water restrictions from three days a week to four.

Bulawayo orders ‘big flush’ amid water rationing

The move comes just two months after the council introduced restrictions in an effort to preserve dwindling water supplies following the decommissioning of the Lower and Upper Ncema dams.

The Bulawayo city council also made international headlines last month when it introduced a synchronised toilet-flushing programme on weekends, aimed at unblocking the city’s sewer system after prolonged water restrictions.

Water usage in the city remains at 123 000 cubic metres a day, which the council wants to reduce to 93000 cubic metres. The rainy season is not expected until early November and although the meteorological services department has forecast normal rains, local officials have indicated that, should there be a delay, a humanitarian disaster may unfold.

In the meantime, the minister of water resources, Samuel Sipepa Nkomo, has refused to bow to pressure from non-governmental organisations, councillors and residents to declare a state of emergency. Nkomo has said water shortages are not unique to Bulawayo and are prevalent in other parts of the country such as Harare and Chitungwiza, where they have led to outbreaks of cholera and typhoid.

“I believe that we have not yet reached that critical stage. I have got a document from some members of Parliament asking me to declare Bulawayo a state of disaster, but we have to assess the implications first. We have problems in other cities where the situation is worse than here,” he said.

[toggle title=”Mismanagement” height=”auto”] Observers argue that Bulawayo’s water crisis is shrouded in politics and does not stem from mismanagement. A lasting solution to the city’s water woes, they say, would be to complete the long-stalled Matabeleland Zambezi Water Trust project, which would draw water from the Zambezi River. Throughout the Matabeleland region, President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu-PF is largely blamed for dragging its feet over implementing the project.

Analysts warn that the water crisis may tilt the scales against Zanu-PF in the next elections, because it remains an emotive issue.

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai used the occasion of the MDC’s anniversary celebrations to play up the mounting anger against Zanu-PF.

“The water crisis in Bulawayo did not start with the MDC, but it is an issue that has been present for the past 30 years and Zanu-PF has failed to address it. They [Zanu-PF] are the ones to blame,” Tsvangirai said.

Bulawayo mayor Thaba Moyo said this week that the local authority was considering drawing water from the Zambezi using bowsers. The water would then be ferried to Bulawayo by train. Critics have dismissed this proposal as unfeasible.

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