HomeOpinion & AnalysisColumnistsBulawayo water woes: A crisis of leadership

Bulawayo water woes: A crisis of leadership


The water crisis in Bulawayo – epitomised by regular water cuts and which is likely to accentuate with shedding up to six times a week – is indeed a disaster situation which merits the urgent attention of the government.

Report by Dumisani Nkomo


However, I would like to argue that the water situation in Bulawayo betrays a deeper crisis which lies at the heart of the city’s woes and indeed those of the nation. The crisis, as far as I am concerned, is more reflective of a leadership crisis than a water one.

The solutions to the city’s water woes are well known and well documented through platforms, structures and forums such as the City Council’s Future.


Water Supplies Committee, Habakkuk Trust and Bulawayo Agenda, among others. Both civil society and the Bulawayo City Council have over the past ten years propounded short, medium and long-term solutions bracketed into the following:

Short term interventions: Nyamandlovu aquifer and duplication of Insiza pipeline.
Medium term: Connection of Mtshabezi pipeline
Long term: Gwayi-Shangani and Zambezi Water Project.

In spite of this, nothing concrete has been done resulting in a crisis situation caused by both a government which has planned to fail by failing to plan.


If indeed they planned, there has been a failure to act and if any action has been taken it has been painstakingly slow. Somebody somewhere has to accept responsibility for this crisis instead of the constant blame apportioning and “ostrich mentality” that we have seen.

While the Finance ministry claims it has released money for various interventions and has blamed the City Council for not acting decisively and swiftly, the council has denied this while the ministry has been perpetually touting the completion of the Mtshabezi Pipeline Project for the past two years, albeit to no avail. Leadership is not about apportioning blame, but accepting responsibility, taking action and creating a unity of purpose and action.

Surely, it is a monumental scandal that the government of the day has failed to build and connect a major dam to Bulawayo for the past 35 years — almost two generations! Most of the water infrastructure was built by the Ian Smith government. Surely our so-called liberators should be hiding in shame just to think that Bulawayo, which now has a population of well over a million people ,is still using the same quantity of water as it used when it had less than 400 000 people.

Since the burden of water supply lies with Zinwa, the government should take the blame for the current crisis.

Resolutions have been passed by forums and platforms such as the Habakkuk Trust Water Indaba (2007), Habakkuk Trust/Nango (Water Summit 2011) and the MDC-T provincial executive and yet the Water minister has remained intransigent about declaring Bulawayo a water crisis area. If a city is to go for up to six days without water in a week, this merits a crisis.

I am acutely aware that the situation is similar in Harare, but for different reasons, as it has been caused not necessarily by a shortage of water, but by a combination of the water reticulation system and the shoddiness of the purification process.

Bulawayo cries out for proactive and visionary councillors, legislators and leaders who do not sleep in chambers of council or get lost in the corridors of power.

How many of our sofa Parliament members have spoken out about this water crisis and attempted to provide leadership?

What are the councillors doing in meetings with residents and soliciting strategies of conserving water and avoiding disease? Every single year for the past fifteen years we have waited for the rainy season to come knowing all too well that our catchment area lies in the semi-arid region of Matabeleland.

Every year the budgetary process is struck by inexplicable inertia when it comes to capital water projects such as Mtshabezi, Gwayi-Shangani. We are told either the money that has been allocated has not been disbursed, or the money that has been disbursed is not adequate, or the money has been disbursed but the contractors have failed to deliver.

It’s the same story every year. This is clearly a problem of leadership, a problem of vision, capacity and lack of political will. Come next elections, we should not be afraid to elect new leaders with the capacity to drive the city forward. Leaders who have required acumen, spine, integrity, maturity, energy and enterprise to make the City of Kings indeed the City of Kings.

Would Sydney Malunga, Charles Mpofu, Nick Mabodoko, Micah Bhebhe have kept quiet while such a crisis persisted? We do not need more committees to solve our water situation since the solutions are there for everybody to see. We have a crisis of leadership!



  • Dumisani O Nkomo is the chief executive officer of Habakkuk Trust and spokesperson of the Matabeleland Civil Society Forum. He writes in his personal capacity. He can be contacted on dumisani.nkomo@gmail.com

Recent Posts

Stories you will enjoy

Recommended reading