BY NQOBANI NDLOVU
Some former Bulawayo councillors say the current council leadership cannnot escape blame for the grave water shortages in the city amid accusations the local authority is failing to manage the limited resource.
Council has decommissioned three supply dams and suspended the 144 hour water shedding regime, a situation that is forcing desperate residents to turn to unsafe water sources to quench their thirst.
At the same time, the water crisis has been blamed for a diarrhoea outbreak that claimed 13 lives and infected over 2 000 others early this year.
Sewer and pipe bursts have also become rampant resulting in sewage seeping into water pipes, exposing residents to waterborne diseases.
Council has been quick to blame the water crisis on the climate change-induced drying-up of supply dams.
The local authority also accuses central government of failing to provide necessary financial resources for water projects.
“I am really lost as to how this council is operating. Something must be wrong somehow.
“For example, where I reside, we only received water yesterday (Thursday) after two weeks,” former deputy mayor Alderman Amen Mpofu said.
“We need a serious, aggressive council, something, which is lacking with this current crop.
“At the moment, we lack people with experience. They must put politics aside as Bulawayo does not drink politics. People need water.”
Consultants hired by the government blame the council for lacking technical know-how and capacity to pump water, insisting that the remaining supply dams, namely Insiza, Mayfair, Inyankuni and Mtshabezi, can last the city 14 months.
Former executive mayor Japhet Ndabeni Ncube said it was puzzling why the council had not embarked on an extensive borehole drilling programme to ease the water crisis.
“While it is true that dams have dried up, resulting in the present water crisis, the council has to be seen drilling so many boreholes and, if possible, in all the townships,” Ncube, who was the last executive mayor of the city, said.
“Our dams do not have water, but the council cannot fold its hands and wait for the next rainy season.
“They have to come up with an emergency programme of drilling boreholes…that is the only solution outside waiting for the central government.”
The Matabeleland Zambezi Water Project, a long-held plan to tap water from the Zambezi River through the construction of a 450km pipeline to arid Matabeleland, mooted way back in 1912, is seen as the lasting solution to the city’s water woes..
Bulawayo City Council senior public relations officer Nesisa Mpofu recently told Sunday Southern Eye that the city’s woes could have been alleviated had it not been for the Water Act, which does not allow it to construct dams.
In 1992, late activist Arnold Payne became a household name when he pushed a wheelbarrow containing a 210-litre drum filled with water, which he had drawn from Zambezi River, to Bulawayo, Gwanda and Harare to highlight the city’s water woes.
This was considered as a symbolic act meant to the urgency of the matter among those in positions of power to spearhead the development of the Zambezi water project for Matabeleland.