Water shortage in Bulawayo turns political


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The shortage of water in Bulawayo, which has gripped the city for the past four months, has turned political.

The mayor, Japhet Ndabeni-Ncube, has accused the Bulawayo United Residents Association (BURA) of trying to politicise the issue after the association called on the government to fire the entire council and appoint a commission to run the city.

The association is, on the other hand, accusing the mayor and the Movement for Democratic Change-dominated council of politicising the issue by refusing to talk to the government.

The government is looking at the impasse with keen interest as it provides a unique opportunity for it to step in. But Ndabeni-Ncube believes Local Government Minister, Ignatius Chombo, who has openly praised the city council as one of the best run local authorities, knows better.

Things came to a head when BURA met at Stanley Square on September 25 to discuss the water shortage. The association had invited the mayor and all 29 councillors but the mayor rebuffed the association and instead called for a meeting with residents on September 22.

BURA wrote to Bulawayo resident Minister Cain Mathema on September 26 registering their disappointment with the Bulawayo City Council as it seemed that everything the council did was “looked at politically”.

The association accused the council of isolating itself from the rest of the country and of having no disaster management plan to solve the current water crisis.

It said because of this, the executive mayor and the entire council should be removed and be replaced by a commission that would be sensitive to rate payers.

BURA said since the council had no disaster management plan, the central government should intervene. It should also link Mtshabezi and Mzingwane dams as a matter of urgency and should speed up implementation of the Zambezi Water Project.

Responding to the BURA letter, Ndabeni-Ncube said the association should get correct information and facts first before doing anything.

The mayor said the council had not been sitting on the water problem as claimed by the association as it had written to the government to look into the problem way back in December last year.

He also said he did not understand what the fuss about Zimbabwe National Water Authority (ZINWA) taking over was as ZINWA already owned all the water in the country and the council was buying water from them.

“Do they want to take over our pipes or what, because we already buy water from ZINWA?” he asked.

The mayor said ZINWA was already failing to maintain boreholes at the Nyamandlovu aquifer. He wondered how they could then be able to solve the water problem in the city.

According to council minutes, the council’s director of engineering services, Peter Sibanda, told the Future Water Supplies and Water Action Committee on 27 July that council had paid ZINWA $270 million to resuscitate 10 boreholes to bring the number of operational boreholes to 34.

ZINWA had initially demanded $3.2 billion to resuscitate up to 31 boreholes but the council said it would only provide money to resuscitate high yield boreholes.

“I do not understand how people think ZINWA can solve the city’s water problems. Right now only 22 boreholes are working but last weekly only 13 of the 22 were working,” the mayor said.

“Zinwa is the one that is supposed to link Mtshabezi and Mzingwane dams but they have failed to do so over the years. My only problem is what agenda does BURA have? It’s definitely not about water.”

BURA president Winos Dube said the issue “was now water under the bridge” because the government was now looking into the issue.

When asked whether BURA, which is accused of being linked to ZANU-PF, was not merely politicking, Dube said the association served all residents regardless of their political affiliation.

“This is a problem we have in Zimbabwe,” he said. “When people fail to deliver they politicise the issue. All we are saying is that they (the council) must be sensitive to the people’s plight.”

“Once you have been elected into office, you are there to serve the people regardless of whether they voted for you or not or whether they belong to your party or not. After all more than 90 percent of the population in Bulawayo did not vote for the mayor in the last elections, so does in mean he will not serve them because they did not vote for him?”

(74 VIEWS)

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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.

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