By NQOBANI NDLOVU
BULAWAYO residents say that the year 2020 must be quickly forgotten as they experienced several misfortunes that include incessant water shortages, and other threats the city such as being declared a Covid-19 hotspot.
Coupled with the water problems and coronavirus, analysts that spoke to Sunday Southern Eye said several acts of police brutality were unleashed on defenceless citizens under the cover of enforcing the Covid-19 lockdown regulations.
Bulawayo’s water shortages were blamed on climate change-induced drought, and this resulted in residents going for days without the precious liquid. Some desperate residents ended up resorting to unsafe water sources for survival, thus endangering their health.
The Bulawayo City Fathers also decommissioned Umzingwane, Upper Ncema and Lower Ncema dams due to dwindled water levels.
A deadly diarrhoea, typhoid and dysentery outbreak that hit Bulawayo was blamed on the dire water shortages. It killed 13 people in March and has to date infected as many as 5 000 people. Cases of diarrhoea are still being reported in Bulawayo to date.
Council was dragged to court over the diarrhoea outbreak.
A July environmental, management and engineering services committee report revealed that residents could have been drinking water which is contaminated by mud and sewer.
According to the report, quality tests done by the council at its Criterion, Ncema and Cowdray dams showed that suitable potable water could have been contaminated through leakages linked to water pipe bursts.
The leaks are blamed on ageing water reticulation infrastructure.
“This water shedding has generally had an impact on the quality of water; this is evidenced by an increase in the number of water complaints received within the city. The complaints are largely related to odour and the presence of particles (turbid) in the water of which various factors have been attributed to these changes in water quality,” the report read in part.
As residents endure the water shortages, analysts called for massive investment in Bulawayo’s water infrastructure projects to ease the crisis.
“The only way to defeat water shortages in Bulawayo is to invest in water supply at city level, and at a national level. We need bigger, better dams. We need to repair our pipes, we need to ensure adequate chemical water treatment chemicals, and we need everything, every facility that is needed to provide clean, safe and reliable water in the city,” Effie Ncube, an analyst said.
Another analyst, Bekezela Maduma Fuzwayo, said: “The year 2020 has not been a pleasant one for Bulawayo and the Matabeleland region as a whole owing to the water crisis. It’s a lesson learnt that the city needs to properly plan in terms of water supply in relation to the growth of the city. We need more in terms of reservoirs for water and water harvesting measures. For example, we resettled people in Nyamandlovu where the catchment area for Bulawayo is meant to be.
“All those people are farming and drawing a lot of water that should under any circumstances be coming to the city. It is something that needs to be looked into; maybe those people have to be moved to proper farming to provide water for Bulawayo.”
In April, the Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association (BPRA) appealed directly to President Emmerson Mnangagwa to declare the city a water shortage area after being frustrated with the lack of urgency by the relevant ministries.
In response, the government hired consultants to study the water situation, and in their analysis, they blamed the council for lacking the technical know-how of drawing water from depleted dams.
While residents battled water shortages, police faced charges of piling more misery on them under the cover of enforcing lockdown regulations. A number of residents narrated gory details of torture and abuse by the police during the lockdown period, particularly at night.
At some point, the clergy warned of civil unrest if acts of police brutality against citizens continued unabated.
“Zimbabwe Christian Alliance (ZCA) is deeply concerned with continued human rights violations by the police under the lockdown period especially against women. This may result in serious conflicts throughout the country if it remains unchecked,” the ZCA said at the time.
Human rights groups also raised alarm over the increase in the assault of citizens by police during the lockdown period.
A Bulawayo resident, Levison Ncube, died as a result of injuries sustained after he was brutally assaulted by police officers for violating lockdown regulations on the first day of the lockdown.